It Feels Good to Feel Again

Excavating my emotion
from beneath a harmful haze
of chemical concoctions
Rediscovering what it means
to feel the world around me

No more sedation
no more shaded sensation
happiness and sorrow held equal
remembering the beauty of both 
a genuine smile cutting through pain

Grateful tears spilling over
delicious, warm, salty
quenching my once parched heart
soaking cheeks and shirtsleeves
releasing years of stagnant suffering

Shedding the grey scales
that have gathered on my skin
sealing me inside 
a hollow human form
I am finally free
Tears get in your eyes | The Compass

Generational Connection

Six Ways to Upgrade Your Praise

I am in such a good mood this morning. Even though I lost my vape somehow and spent nearly $200 on wine yesterday, I still got to spend the whole day with an amazing, loving little girl. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned her before on my blog, but my sister’s boyfriend has a six-year-old daughter named Alaina. She is the most precious, well-behaved child I have perhaps ever met. (and I work with kids everyday.) I can’t seem to stop being fascinated by how happy she makes me though. As someone who never interacted with or cared much for children before I got my current job, it is a constant mystery to me why I love her and the other children I meet so much.

It almost feels like a chemical reaction is trigged in my brain when children are around. My heart opens wide and loving kindness floods my senses. I am overwhelmed with the desire to see them happy and to make a positive impact on their young minds. Especially when it comes to young children, I am also touched by their accepting and curious nature. Children don’t seem to judge at all. Even when they point out something rude like someone’s weight, it is never done in a malicious way. It is simply an observation that we interpret as an insult. Children embrace the world and everyone in it for what they are. For this reason, I feel I am able to take down the mask I wear for the world when I am with them.

The most intriguing aspect of my love of children is that none of these children are related to me. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that would happen. And it’s not just me, my mom and grandma and aunt all seem to love Alaina just as much as I do despite none of us having a connection to her biologically. When I got older, I felt patronized by what I saw as my family’s feinted interest in the things I did when I was a young child. I felt lied to that they told me my art was good, that I was smart, etc. It felt like everyone around me must have just been playing a role. They couldn’t have really gave a damn about seeing me ride a pony around in a circle at the county fair.

Being with Alaina has taught me that that isn’t true at all. I genuinely loved watching her riding a pony yesterday. I loved seeing her happy. I loved watching the wonder that colors her perception of the world. I even had to laugh as she yelled, “WOAH!” at every single firework last night. I know a few years ago, I would have been the young woman angrily wondering why those people don’t make their kid be quiet. Now even the things that would have annoyed me about stranger’s children in the supermarket, only make me smile.

Funny enough, it reminds me of something from Interview with the Vampire, which I watched a few weeks ago for the first time. (I may have been an aspect of Twilight as well.) The vampires could live forever so it was important for them not to become too disconnected from the living world. They were encouraged to interact with the people of each time period to maintain some of their humanity.

I don’t know what this says about me, but I feel like I can relate to that sentiment. Children keep me connected to humanity. They also keep me grounded in the present moment, because that’s where they are. They allow me to see the world through fresh, eager, innocent eyes. It is a joy to be an influence on them, to know that you can potentially make a huge impact in their lives. It is a responsibility that I am honored to have. It is a joy and a privilege to be a protector, a teacher, an example. Time spent with a child, is a meaningful investment in the future.

That’s why it is all the more painful to realize that these children don’t have much of a future to invest in. As much as I’ve wished the rest of the world would acknowledge the fact that it’s largely too late for us to adequately address climate change, it was crushing to hear a newscaster in a video Alaina was watching address children with the message of an inevitably catastrophic future. After I had finally come to terms with my own shortened lifespan, my wound was ripped open anew at the prospect of the even greater loss for the tiny soul snuggled into my side. What shame, what anguish I feel to leave these children with a decimated earth. How badly I wish I could tell all the generations after me that I’m sorry.

Even if it’s futile, I am going to keep fighting for them, for the animals, for all the most vulnerable and innocent among us. Even though it hurts, it’s so worth it.

Using Praise to Encourage Good Behaviors

Admiration

Today I thought it would be fun to write a bit about the people in my life that I most admire and why I admire them. Working with at risk populations and disadvantaged children has made me realize just how lucky I have been to have the people I’ve had in my life. Often when we’ve been raised in a healthy environment, surrounded by privilege, it can be hard to realize how different the lives of others may actually be. For most of my life, I took the incredible adults in my life for granted. Even worse, I didn’t acknowledge how great they actually were. Instead of being grateful for all that my parents have done for me, as a teen I was quick to judge and dismiss all the good things about them in favor of focusing on the imperfections of their parenting.

Now when I look back, I have to laugh at how naïve I was. I was expecting my parents, and frankly all the adults in my life, to be perfect, and was angry with them when (of course) they weren’t. It was only after becoming an adult myself that I realized the impossible standard I had been holding people too. Today I wanted to explain exactly why the adults I’ve had in my life growing up were not just adequate, but phenomenal, especially compared to the parents I meet everyday at work.

Mom

In the last decade, I have done a complete 180 when it comes to my opinion of my mom. As a teen I blamed her for all of my issues, rather than giving her credit for the advantages she has given me. I considered her a “bad mom” because she was always too busy. How exactly I felt that was her fault, I don’t know. She was raising two children and working full time with little to no help from my father. Of course she was busy. There were a few times I recall her actually having a mental breakdown in front of my sister and I when we were little. I was shocked and appalled even at the time. “This is not appropriate behavior to display in front of children,” I thought. Looking back, I genuinely can’t believe she only had those few incidents. I would be breaking down every single day if I was in her shoes now.

My mother is one of the most incredible people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She is so patient and gentle and intelligent and humble. She’s a saint in my eyes. She has always made sure that my sister and I had everything we could have ever needed or wanted. She has always shown me respect even when I was a small child. She has always been there to listen to me, no matter how busy she may have been. She had so much on her plate for so many years and still hardly ever complained. She never gave up on me, even when I tried to shut her out. Her love has truly been unconditional. I couldn’t imagine having a more ideal mother. I am so lucky to have her in my life, to have been raised by her, to have been able to learn from her example. I am forever grateful.

Grandma

My grandmother on my mother’s side, has also been an essential influence in my life. I am so lucky to have always been surrounded by such strong, intelligent, loving women. I owe everything that I am today to the women who raised me and taught me by example all the values I now hold so dear. My grandma raised me just as much as my mother did. She was always there to greet me when I got off the school bus and was my only baby sitter.

This woman is truly selfless, much like my mother. She has been an example of strength, independence, contentment, equanimity, and love. Nothing ever seems to bother or overwhelm this woman. She has been through so much in her 91 years on this earth. She has instilled in me her love of reading and her connection to nature. I will always cherish the memories I have of her reciting fairytales to me before bed and exploring the woods together with her and my sister. I’ve never heard her raise her voice. Neither she or my mother ever raised a hand to me either. The steady, sturdy presence of these unbelievable woman has allowed me to be the person I am today.

Scott

It may seem strange that the Scott I’m referring to here is actually my coworker and not my father, who is also named Scott. However, my father, while always being a part of my life, has never really made much of an impact on me. He always remained in the background. It is sad to say, but I’m MUCH closer to the Scott I’ve only known for two years now, than I am my own father.

That being said, Scott is an incredible man. I feel overwhelming gratitude that I am able to spend so much time with him. I genuinely think of him as a father. He represents to me so many qualities that I aspire to cultivate within myself. He is intelligent, charismatic, interesting, funny, dedicated, humble, easy-going, and much much more. He emanates passion in everything that he does. He does his job well, with diligence and skill. He is selfless almost to a fault. He would do anything for his family, friends, and the children that we serve every day.

I even love his imperfections. I admire the fact that he came from a complicated background. He grew up with an alcoholic, largely absent father. His mother hit him on many occasions. He saw some messed up things as a young man. He stole. He did drugs. He certainly hasn’t always been the outstanding citizen he is today, and that makes him all the more endearing to me. Despite all that he’s seen in his personal life as well as through his line of work, he still always manages to see the best in people. He has an unwavering faith in humanity that I envy. I can only hope that I can be more like him some day.


These are the three people that I admire and look up to the most. There are so many other amazing people I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life, but even if it were only these three, it would be more than the majority of the kids I meet everyday have. Even if you only have one decent person to admire in your life, be grateful. You would be surprised how many people have absolutely no one worthy of being a role model. And if you are one of those people, my heart goes out to you. I hope that someday we can all become someone worthy of admiration for someone who needs it.

Who Do You Admire? Do You Admire You? How To Become The Best You.

Learning to Be Happy (Even When You Don’t Get What You Want)

True Contentment: In Simplicity — SECOND CITY CHURCH

The other day, while listening to a talk given by the American spiritual teacher and guru, Ram Dass, he said something along the lines of: Learn how to be happy even when you don’t get what you want. For some reason, the way he said these words really struck me. There is something about listening to the gentle, slow, thoughtful voice of a spiritual leader that allows simple ideas to penetrate directly to your soul. Since then I have kept that idea close to my heart.

It’s so easy to forget that external circumstances don’t dictate our internal state. Finding contentment where we are now, doesn’t mean that we won’t want things anymore. However, we won’t allow the outcome of these wants to decide how we feel. Certain desires are easier to let go of than others, but it’s important to remind ourselves that we always have the power to let go and reside in happiness.

All of us already know how to do this to a certain extent. We have varying levels of wanting. We may want to have a certain fruit for breakfast only to realize that it has spoiled and we must find something else to eat. Depending on who you are, this usually isn’t enough to ruin your day or mood. We simply think, “oh, rats” and prepare another food. On the other hand, we may be planning to get married only to have our
fiancée leave us at the alter. That’s not going to be as easy to let go of as a rotten mango.

I wonder, though. How much the variation in reaction has to do with our preconceived ideas about the “appropriate” reaction in each scenario. When I used to get upset, it genuinely felt like I had no choice. Then in addition to not getting what I wanted, I felt an added level of suffering due to a feeling of powerlessness. There is a certain freedom in simply knowing we have the ability to choose.

When my ex left me the last time, I remember feeling frustrated that now I’d have to go back to being sad and miserable. The idea of doing that seemed so repulsive to me that I decided I didn’t care if that’s what I was supposed to feel. I decided to discard my ideas of what I thought society expected of me in that scenario. I didn’t want to be sad anymore, and for the first time in such a situation, I realized I had the choice not to be.

Sometimes just remembering that we have that choice is enough. This doesn’t mean that you’ll never experience sadness, anger, frustration, or suffering again. There are some times in life that we actually want to feel sad, and that’s okay. There is a difference between holding space for a genuine emotion and feeling trapped by one.

The next time I find myself not getting what I want, rather than getting upset and ruminating, I’m going to use it as an opportunity. Each time something doesn’t go the way you planned, it’s an opportunity to practice being happy anyway. One of my favorite questions to ask myself is: Can I love myself even though…? Fill in the blank. Now I’d like to add another question: Can I be happy even though….? Sometimes phrasing the issue in this way allows us to see the choice we have. When I’m getting down on myself because of some small flaw, asking the question, “can I still love myself,” brings things back into perspective and reminds me what really matters. If I can still love myself anyway, why bother being upset about whatever it may be? The same goes for “can I be happy anyway.”

Asking these types of questions also helps me be more lighthearted about the problem. Sometimes the answer isn’t clear in that moment. Then I become curious. Can I? Let’s find out. It can be fun to explore our own hearts and minds and find a path back to happiness. And just like paths in the forest, these paths become more worn and easier to follow the more we use them. So don’t worry if your mind seems like particularly dense woodlands right now. You can still make those paths. Even if it’s hard at first, know that it only gets easier.

Ram Dass talks about 'Becoming Nobody,' the documentary on his spiritual  journey | Datebook

Finding the Feeling

For years now, I have practiced yoga, meditation, and gratitude daily. While I’ve definitely noticed improvements in my mental health since implementing these practices, it still feels like the changes I’ve experienced have been underwhelming. I thought that after such diligent effort over so many years, that I would be further along in my spiritual journey by this point. I still struggle daily with feelings of inadequacy, guilt, shame, anger, jealousy, fear, anxiety, etc.

In the beginning, these daily practices were done very intentionally. It was easy to remain mindful because everything was so new to me. However, after solidifying these routines, they became just that, routines. Many days I find myself just going through the motions. That is the reason I haven’t been able to enjoy more of the benefits ever after so many years. I also think this may be a reason some people find themselves giving up on yoga, meditation, and mindfulness all together.

We must always be careful not to allow these things to become just words, just routines. Going through the motions may be better than doing nothing at all, but it isn’t going to result in the profound changes we’re seeking in ourselves. Yoga isn’t about the shapes the body takes, it’s about where the mind goes, learning to watch our own thoughts, learning to let go, to make peace with our perceived flaws or shortcomings, and so much more. In the same way, a daily gratitude practice isn’t about how fast you can list things off, or being able to fill up a whole page. It’s about the energy, the emotion behind the things your listing.

It’s almost funny when I think about it. I don’t know why I would expect writing a list of things I’m grateful for to be any different than writing a grocery list considering the way I normally feel while doing so. I usually don’t feel anything at all. If anything, I feel annoyed. “Ugh, I don’t have time for this. I can’t think of anything to write. Why am I such an ungrateful person? Why is this so hard for me?” That’s usually the kinds of thoughts occupying my mind as I struggle to think of enough bullet points to fill the page in my gratitude journal. Saying the words, “I am grateful,” isn’t enough. You’ve got to feel it too.

Now for some people this may just be something that blossoms naturally from doing the practice. That’s how it is for all of us at the beginning I think. But for an emotionally blunted person like myself, after the initial novelty of the practices begins to wear off, it takes a bit more effort to uncover that emotional energy. Words and actions may help to illicit certain feelings, but we can’t allow ourselves to become to distracted by the words and actions alone. It’s the energy, the emotion, the sensation, that really matters. Having the emotion without the words, will still work wonders. Having the words without the feeling behind it, does nothing.

So the next time you embark on any mindfulness practice, try to focus on the energy behind your intention. What is your goal in doing this practice? What types of feelings and emotions are you trying to invite into your life? Are you trying to train your brain to quickly list things? Or are you trying to train your brain to actually experience a certain kind of energetic state? If you want to be able to more easily experience gratitude, you’ve got to actually practice feeling grateful, not just telling yourself you are.

This may be a lot more difficult of a practice, if you’re like me. I really struggle to get in touch with my emotions. If someone told me to imagine what love feels like, I’d feel confusion and maybe anxiety rather than love. If that sounds like you, try this short exercise:

  1. Close your eyes.
  2. Take 5 slow, deep breaths in and out.
  3. Now, imagine someone or something that you love. At first, you might still struggle to feel anything. If that’s the case, keep concentrating on more and more details. You might try to remember and recreate in your mind a memory with this person/animal/object.
  4. Once you’ve got a clear image in your head, move back into your body. What types of sensations are you experiencing? What do you feel and where are you feeling it? Maybe you feel an opening in your heart space or a lightness in your stomach.
  5. Whatever you’re feeling, focus on those bodily sensations. That is love. Not the words, not the thoughts, but this, right here, this feeling.
  6. Stay with that feeling for awhile, breathe into it, explore it, try to savor the subtleties of it so that you may more easily call yourself back to this energetic state in the future. Try to memorize every aspect.
  7. When you’re ready, you may release the practice and open your eyes. You can come back to this practice as many times as you need to. Eventually it will become easier and easier to cultivate this feeling whenever you want to.

If you’ve been practicing for a long time like I have and are just now coming to this realization, no worries. Obviously it took me this long to realize too. No need to be harsh on yourself about it or feel like you’ve just been wasting time up until now. The foundation you laid by “going through the motions” has led you to a place where you’re now able to delve more deeply into your practice, to add a new layer to your daily routine. We all move through our spiritual practice at our own pace, with our own unique obstacles along the way. Honor where you are now and keep moving forward.

If you have a daily gratitude practice, maybe today try to list only 1-3 things. Rather than quantity, focus on the quality of emotion behind each listed item. Let me know how it goes! I’d also love to know: What does love feel like in your body? What does gratitude feel like to you?

Gratitude Journal for a positive mindset - The Happi Empire

Advocacy vs. Activism

UK boards braced for new 'golden age of activism' in wake of Brexit and  pandemic - Financial News

The word “activism” is described as: the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change. “Advocacy” is defined in a slightly different way: public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy. While these may seem like the same thing at first, I would argue that they are very different. Here are my definitions:

  • Activism: fighting against policies or practices that one considers harmful or unethical.
  • Advocacy: fighting for individuals or communities affected by harmful policies or practices.

I consider both of these to be valuable, necessary contributions to the betterment of society. However, that doesn’t mean we are all suited for them. Some of us may be more capable of handling the consequences, whether they be physical, emotional, or mental, of activism more so than advocacy or vise versa. For example, maybe someone finds it easier to go to protests and lobby their government than personally supporting victims. Perhaps they have a lot of passion for a given issue, but it is more painful to see the end result of those affected. This would be someone better suited for activism. As an advocate, I find it easier to support and care for the individual than to fight against what has harmed them. Then of course there are those that can’t bear the weight of either one, and that’s perfectly fine too. In order to make the most of our energy and make the biggest impact, I think it’s important that we honor these personal differences.

Today I wanted to take the time to offer some suggestions for those of you, like me, that find your energy is best spent doing advocacy work instead of activism. First, I think it needs to be reiterated that both of these are amazing and much needed. Regardless of what or how often you contribute, know that your efforts matter. I’m only focusing on advocacy because I feel it is the lesser understood of these forms of social justice. For organization sake, I am going to break down my suggestions for advocacy by issue. I also want to stress that whatever you do, no matter how small, is something for the world to be grateful for. Maybe you feel you can’t be vegan yourself, but support the vegan movement. You can still donate to sanctuaries, share information, foster shelter animals, etc. Maybe you’re too afraid to leave a toxic religious organization, but you want to support others who are. You can still help in creative, even clandestine ways. So don’t be discouraged by anyone who says it’s not enough. However much you feel you are able to give is enough. And maybe you don’t feel like you have anything to give at all, even then, you can share these resources with others who might be able to offer more. That too is a great help.

1. Feminism

  1. Volunteer Clinic Escort: I just recently discovered that this is something you can do at Planned Parenthood. Instead of arguing with misogynists online, trying to make a difference in the collective consciousness, why not make a guaranteed difference in at least one woman’s life? Rather than raise your voice to shout down the hateful, ignorant protesters outside these clinics, let your voice be the gentle one at a fearful woman’s side championing her onward and wiping away her tears.
  2. Abortion Fund Donation: If you’re able to more easily give money than time, try donating to the National Network of Abortion Funds. Their mission is “to remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access by centering people who have abortions and organizing at the intersections of racial, economic, and reproductive justice.” Often the women that most desperately need to terminate a pregnancy are the ones least able to afford or access services. The procedure itself can be expensive, but now with abortion rights being threatened in more and more states, there can be added fees such as out of state travel or hotel stays. Donating to these funds is an excellent way to make sure that we are helping the most vulnerable maintain bodily autonomy and their human rights.

2. Religious Freedom (Freedom from Religion)

  1. Support Recovering From Religion: This organization offers people leaving religion dozens of resources to help them cope in this new phase of their life. It also offers supportive counseling for anyone who would like it. You can help by volunteering your time for this counseling and/or you can offer a monetary donation. Often when one leaves a very toxic religious group, it can be insanely difficult to adjust. Some churches completely cut you off from friends and family still involved with the church, leaving you with no support system at all. This is obviously an intimidation and manipulation tactic that organizations like Recovering From Religion help combat.

* I actually had a much more difficult time finding resources for this section than I imagined. Another great way for you to contribute would be by adding new resources. You might work to start a non profit or make your own fundraiser to support people leaving religion in various ways. Also if you know of any other organizations or sites offering help to people escaping from religious groups, leave them in the comments. I’m happy to update this post as often as needed to incorporate new resources.

3. Racism

  1. Black Lives Matter: At this point, I’m sure I don’t need to explain what this group is to anyone. However, even after hearing so much about this movement in the news, this is the first time I actually went to their website. There are a lot of amazing resources and information on there. You can sign up for their newsletter to stay updated on information and events. You can volunteer your time by helping to report misinformation on social media. And of course you can donate or purchase merchandise to help the group financially.
  2. Educate Yourself: One of the most important things that all of us can do is educate ourselves about the history of racism in our country. I think even one individual making an effort to absorb this knowledge is a step in the right direction. No matter how much I think I know about the oppression of black and brown people, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes of searching to find out about even more horrors. The more we know the better we will be able to support and show respect to our black friends and the black members of our community. Here is a list of resources you might find helpful in your pursuit for understanding. Just make sure that you are doing the work of educating yourself. Don’t burden you black friends/acquaintances with the job of educating you.
  3. Support Black Creators: I learned just the other day about the way social media algorithms actively suppress the voices of black creators. They are less likely to be recommended or broadcasted on the platform, therefor much less likely to be visible. If you use social media, you could make an effort to follow more black and brown accounts. You can also make the conscious choice to seek out movies, shows, books, etc. that were made by black people. In this way, we are not only offering financial support, but broadening our perspectives by exposing ourselves to more diverse content.

4. Veganism

  1. Vegan Outreach: This is one of my favorite vegan organizations. Founded in 1993, Vegan Outreach is a nonprofit organization working to end violence towards animals. They “seek a future when sentient animals are no longer exploited as commodities.” Their website offers a lot of different ways to get involved. You can join their vegan mentor program and give helpful advice to people just starting out of their vegan journey. You can assist them in offering vegan food to local communities during Covid-19. You can even do something as simple as reviewing vegan foods through an app called abillion. In doing so, the app will automatically donate $1 to Vegan Outreach for each review!
  2. Make Vegan Art: What is more prevalent in today’s day and age than memes? Why not try your hand at creating some new catchy vegan slogans or images to share online? Currently this is the route my vegan advocacy is taking. There is no need to share the art you create on your personal accounts if you’re trying to avoid confrontation. You can simply publish them on your blog or even in chatrooms. Who knows? Maybe one will go viral and make a huge impact!
  3. Donate to Sanctuaries: Farm animal sanctuaries are doing the important work of protecting animals that have been rescued. Obviously it takes a lot of money to house, feed, and care for these animals. Donations are a great way to ensure that they can keep doing so. You can even start your own fundraiser or volunteer at a sanctuary near you.
  4. Foster an Animal: Veganism isn’t only about helping farmed animals. It’s just as important to do our part for the various other types of animals in shelters around the world. You can always donate to your local non-kill shelter, or offer to foster animals until they are able to be adopted.
  5. Share Your Food/Recipes: This is a little bit trickier given the pandemic, but as long as you take the proper precautions, sharing your delicious vegan food with non-vegan friends and family can be a great way to bolster the vegan movement. One of the main things people fear about veganism is not knowing what they would be able to eat. Everyone loves good food. Even if sharing your recipes with others doesn’t make them go vegan, it can lessen that fear of the unknown. In addition, it may keep an animal off of their plate for at least one meal, which is a win in my book. Sharing my vegan creamer at work has led to our non-vegan intern switching to it at home!

I hope that you’ve found these suggestions helpful and that you’ll give some of them a try. There are many ways to make a difference, so don’t get discouraged if activism is a bit too damaging for your mental health. You can always find new, creative, peaceful ways to help a cause that you are passionate about. Again, as I stated earlier, please let me know of any other resources you think I should add to any of the sections above. I would love to pack this post with as many options as possible to get people involved.

How to Help Even When It Hurts

Vegan activism is something I deeply admire. Not only because of the time and effort it takes, but because of the pain one must endure to keep fighting this hopeless battle. In the early years of my veganism, I had never felt more energized to fight for a cause. The urgency, the immensity, the horror of it all was always with me. The only thing that shielded me from the grief I harbored for these precious animals, was the white hot rage I felt toward the people who refused to look at them. I wanted to scream. I wanted to stop the world. I wanted to save these animals more than I wanted to live. If I could have sacrificed myself to do so, I would have. And most likely, still would if given the choice.

Within a few years, I was hopeless and burnt out. I simply couldn’t bear to continue being confronted with the selfishness, the ignorance, the self righteousness of humanity. Although I felt monstrous for doing so, I largely gave up. I laid down the torch I had been carrying for these animals. It felt like I, myself, had been on fire. My soul was that torch and it had all but been extinguished. I had to turn away, despite the shame I felt for doing so.

Of course I didn’t stop being vegan. Nothing could make me go back to being a willing participant and sponsor of the animal agriculture industry. I simply couldn’t see the point in trying to convince anyone else to join me, or even acknowledge the atrocities being committed everyday. To constantly be thinking about the horrendous conditions billions of animals are currently trapped in was destroying me, which would have been okay if it was actually making a difference.

Since then, I’ve started to think of different ways that I might contribute to the animal rights movement. It came to me today as I sat in court with a family torn apart by child abuse. I really felt like I was making a difference, that I was a part of helping these amazing kids. But what exactly had I done to help fight child abuse? I certainly wasn’t participating in protests, writing articles, lobbying the government, or hunting down pedophiles. No, I get to be on the other end of the issue completely. Rather than fighting against the monsters hurting these children, I fight for the children themselves. I get to be there for them through the process. I get to offer loving kindness and support to people who, sometimes, have never experienced that before.

Realizing this inspired me to try again to add my voice to the vegan community. Instead of focusing on shining a light on the unimaginable conditions these animals face, why not shine a light on the joys of living as a vegan? By now I’ve realized that someone isn’t going to go vegan because of facts and data. You can’t force someone to make the connection, no matter how hard you try. All that I can do is support the people who are ready to make that change, the people standing on the edge, afraid to jump. I can offer advice. I can share all I’ve learned through my own experiences. I can help guide them on their journey.

I don’t believe that the world will ever go vegan. Perhaps if we had more time, but unfortunately we simply do not. What I do believe is that each individual animal matters enough to keep fighting anyway. If I can help even one person to become vegan, thousands of lives will be spared. It is estimated that the average person will kill and eat 7,000 animals during their lifetime. If I can save even one of those animals from suffering, all of my efforts will have been worth it. So from now on, I am going to try harder to keep up with this blog’s original purpose. I’m going to be posting more content to help people go and stay vegan.

In Praise of Timothy Leary

50 Timothy Leary Quotes That Will Leave You Tripping | Everyday Power

I know I have really been harping on LSD and psychedelics recently, so I apologize. However, I have been a bit obsessed from reading How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan. I just finished the book yesterday actually. Overall, it was an incredible read. I learned so much, from anecdotal testimony to scientific data to the history of psychedelics politically and culturally. There was one part of the book that rubbed me the wrong way though. The author as well as a lot of the other scientists and researchers he interviewed seemed to be very critical and hostile toward a man who was a pivotal part of the psychedelic movement, Timothy Leary.

Leary is probably one of the most recognized names when it comes to the topic of psychedelics and LSD in particular. I had expected the book to mention him, but was surprised to find harsh judgement rather than admiration and praise. The first I heard of Leary was from the documentary on Netflix called Orange Sunshine. In this documentary I learned about Leary’s role in distributing LSD throughout the country during the 60’s and 70’s. He even went to prison for this valiant effort. (He did escape, but that’s another story.) Based on this, my impression of him was exceptionally positive. To be honest, he was a hero to me. It still nearly brings me to tears when I think about how grateful I am for his efforts to share this incredible drug with the world.

Yet, in Pollan’s book, Leary is primarily vilified for the very acts which led me to hold him in such high regard. It seems a lot of the scientific community largely blame Leary for psychedelic research being restricted. There were a lot of people saying that he was an egomaniac, a publicity hound, etc. They saw him as a narcissist who blew up the legitimate case for psychedelic use with his antics and insistence that everyone deserved to try it.

I was frustrated anytime he was criticized in the book. I can’t say whether or not he was full of himself. Maybe he was. But I don’t think that changes the fact that what he did was, in my opinion, a great gift to society. I doubt I would have ever been able to experience LSD if not for his efforts to get it out of the lab and into the streets. I’m so grateful for the brave proponents of recreational psychedelic use. Even though these substances have a clear medical benefit for a lot of people, I don’t think we should limit it to only clinical settings. Primarily because this is a free country and as one of the people quoted in the book says, “it’s safer than alcohol!” Not only are psychedelics harmless for the majority of the population, they are beneficial for healthy people as well as sick people. I truly believe we have a right as human beings to experience these altered states of consciousness. We have a right to explore our own minds, especially if we aren’t hurting anyone including ourselves.

Finally, toward the end of the book, the disdainful tone toward Leary shifts a bit. There are still plenty of people that respect and admire his contributions to the psychedelic movement. Obviously there was a good chance the government would have restricted psychedelic use and research without Leary’s involvement. After all, psychedelics are a huge threat to capitalism and the blind obedience to authority that supports it. Caffeine and nicotine are drugs too, lest we forget. These are legal and widely accepted as part of a normal day though, because they have a positive effect on productivity and work performance. We’re made to believe laws are made to keep us safe, but more often they are made to keep us in line.

In the last chapter, a few people are willing to concede that if not for Leary, perhaps there wouldn’t be a resurgence and second wave of psychedelic studies. It’s interesting to note that the legal progress that has been made is thanks to the generation who were able to experience the drug for themselves in their youth. You’re more likely to see the potential of these drugs if you have personal knowledge of their effects. A large portion of the recreational experiences of the generation that is now in political power was likely thanks to Leary.

Despite all the people in the psychedelic community who turn their noses up at Timothy Leary, he is still a heroic figure in my opinion. He risked everything, his career, his credentials, his reputation, and his freedom in order to “turn on the world” as he likes to put it. I am certain that I have him to thank for the transcendence I have been able to experience through LSD. I am eternally grateful for what this man has done for, not only me personally, but for the whole world.

When the LSD King Timothy Leary Hid in Africa with the Black Panthers

What You Damn, Damns You

Anger Meditation in Four Forms - Tricycle: The Buddhist Review

What you damn, damns you.

What you place in darkness, calls you to the darkness.

Paul Selig

Paul Selig was the guest on the podcast I was listening to as I drove home yesterday. At first I was skeptical. He was described as an author and “medium.” He talks about “channeling” these other voices and entities that tell him what to write in his books. Anytime I hear outlandish claims like this, my defenses immediately go up. My first instinct is: this is a charlatan, a grifter, a scam artist. I am angered at the audacity of some of these so called mystics and the way they blatantly take advantage of their trusting, if not naïve, followers.

After listening to him speak for awhile, I did hear a lot of interesting ideas. Whether or not he actually believes he is channeling spirits that tell him these things, I have no clue. However, a couple of the things he ended up saying really struck me. Particularly the quote I shared above: What you damn, damns you. What you place in darkness, calls you to the darkness. I even tried to look it up to see if this quote could be attributed to anyone else, but wasn’t able to find it anywhere. This actually makes me curious to read at least one of Paul Selig’s books, in case there are anymore insightful tidbits like this.

I wanted to talk about that quote today and dissect it a little bit. It reminds me a lot of the famous Buddha quote: Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. I never really realized that this idea could be expanded to encompass practically all negative emotions. Often we lash out at the world around us, thinking subconsciously that our refusal to accept someone or something will help us maintain distance from it. But in fact, that hatred, that anger, that denial, that distaste, actually allows the very things we want to avoid to have more of an effect on us. It is equanimity toward all things that will set us free.

Take a moment to reflect on some of the things (or people) that you hate. How does thinking about these things feel in your body? Perhaps you notice a tightening in your chest, a narrowing of your eyes, growing tension in your shoulders. Whatever you’re feeling, it’s likely not pleasant. Now consider how these thoughts affect whatever it is you’re thinking about. I’m guessing it doesn’t affect it at all, right? So why do we continue to lower our own vibration for the sake of anger, hatred, etc.?

Sometimes it genuinely feels as though we have no choice. We’re made to feel these emotions. That’s how I thought about things for most of my life. And at times, it’s still hard to remember I have a choice. It definitely takes a lot of practice to resist that spark of fury when someone cuts you off in traffic or offends you in one way or another. I may not ever be able to eliminate these visceral reactions from my life completely. However, just reframing the way you see things is the first step. It makes a huge difference. I used to cling to my anger and avoidance. I claimed it as part of my identity even, defined myself not only by the things I loved but by the things I hated as well. It wasn’t just hard to let go, I didn’t want to let it go. These negative feelings felt important somehow.

Just noticing my own thought patterns and emotional reactions has made my life so much easier. While I’m not able to completely avoid getting angry or upset, it is a hell of a lot easier to calm myself back down and let those feelings flow through me without clinging onto them. Now I have much more energy to direct toward the things I love, the things I’m grateful for, the things that bring me peace and joy.

If you notice yourself ruminating about the things that irritate you today, try to remember that you are the only one being affected by these thoughts and feelings. Hating the slow driver in the left lane in front of you, doesn’t do anything to that driver. It doesn’t bother them, nor does it make them drive any faster. So why are you making the situation even more unpleasant by punishing yourself? Can you let it go? Do you feel resistant to letting it go? Can you get curious about why that is? Don’t be too hard on yourself if this is challenging at first. I still struggle with it all the time. The important thing is that you’re aware and you’re trying. That is something to be proud of.

Lessons in LSD

On Labor Day, after spending the morning hiking through beautiful new woodland areas and visiting my grandmother, my boyfriend and I decided to spend the last several hours of his visit on acid. I’ve been so eager to have another trip since I’ve been reading about psychedelics for the past few weeks. This time I was determined to take at least as much as I did on my first trip, which was five hits. A lot of the experiences described in the psychedelic studies were due to high doses of the drugs, likely much higher than even what is contained in those five tabs. As summer was beginning to wane, I felt long overdue for a spiritual, transcendent experience. And I was so happy to have my beloved there by my side.

I am always surprised by just how natural the effects of LSD feel. It feels like coming home. It feels far more real than my sober reality ever could. It feels like waking up, cradled in the arms of mother earth, of the universe. Never has the mantra “everything is as it should be” felt so true. Static electricity seems to fill the air, connecting me to everything, supporting me, energizing me.

We spent the first moments of our trip gently stretching on our yoga mats in the sunlit grass. Every sensation seemed amplified and completely new. What a joy to move this miraculous body! How good it feels to explore myself as if for the first time. Every breath was orgasmic. Crisp clean air, expanding my lungs, flooding my blood, my brain, with oxygen. So simple, so satisfying. I doubt I stopped smiling for even a second.

One of the first things I always notice when I trip is my habitual thought patterns. “What’s next?” I’m always asking myself. Planning the next moment, rather than enjoying the one that I’m in. Searching for satisfaction outside of myself instead of inside. There is no judgment muddying this self-reflection, only interest and amusement. How strange it is to not be able to see the perfection of the present while sober. It seems so obvious, so unavoidable on acid. Never has it been more clear that these feelings of ecstasy come from within, that I have the power of happiness inside me always, regardless of my external circumstances.

After reveling in and exploring our own bodies for awhile, we moved inside to explore and enjoy one another. I’ve always cringed at the phrase “making love,” but for the first time in my life, I truly felt that was what we were doing. There was no anxiety, no shame, no hesitation, no expectation, just pure presence, pure love. At times I truly lost myself. There was no separation between our bodies or our souls. As we laid silently in one another’s arms afterward, I felt that no words could accurately express what had just passed between us. Perfection is the only one that comes close. Thankfully, it also felt like no words were needed. I felt an overwhelming sense of peace, joy, and oneness with all the universe. My heart was overflowing with unconditional love for all of existence. It seemed as though we were only given distinct forms in order to experience the miracle of coming together again.

We spent the rest of the evening gathering tomatoes from my garden, making dinner, snuggling, laughing and watching YouTube. At one point we attempted to be creative. I was dying to write. Poetry seemed to be endlessly streaming through my head. However, when I put pen to paper, I couldn’t seem to find the right words. These realizations, the beauty of existence, these transcendental truths were so clear in my mind. Yet there were impossible to express accurately with mere words. Despite my best efforts, psychedelic experiences are largely inexpressible. At best they translate into platitudes and clichés. So here’s a vague representation of what I always come away with:

  1. Everything is as it should be.
  2. Everything is a cycle, spiraling out endlessly into infinity.
  3. I have everything I need inside of myself.
  4. Love and laughter are all that matter.
  5. We are all one.

These are by no means new ideas. However, the psychedelic experience allows me to perceive and appreciate these truths in a deeper way. This appreciation and poignancy perseveres long after the effects of the drug wear off. I would liken it to splashing your face with water in the morning. It’s a splash of gratitude and energy for the soul. It’s a reminder of who we really are. A confirmation that all is well, that we are exactly where we should be.

Perhaps the most striking and fascinating of the lessons I’ve learned from acid are the idea that everything is a cycle. This can be frustrating, but also quite comforting. It truly gives me the gift of believing that death is not the final ending. There is no ending, only new beginnings. Psychedelics give us something that unfortunately we cannot share with one another through language. It is something, I believe, everyone should experience for themselves. It’s a remedy. It’s a revelation. It’s a rebirth.

Mind menders: how psychedelic drugs rebuild broken brains | New Scientist