For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it. – Jacques Cousteau
There are linguists who trace the derivation of the word soul to an ancient Germanic root word meaning coming from or belonging to the sea. For example the Old Saxon word for soul – sêola and for sea sêo. The ancient northern Europeans believed the soul came from and returned to sacred bodies of water. They would offer sacrificial offerings to ease the passage of the soul from this world to the Great Beyond. And beneath those vast rolling waves, whales are singing a soulful symphony to one another. Recently some researchers have created a way to transcribe those incredible songs.
Songs of Whales Recorded and Transcribed – National Geographic
Saltwater flows through our veins. Life began in the ocean. We have relatives out there in the briny deep. One of our most wonderful remote relations are the soulful whales. We are cousins – a half million or so generations removed. We share common ancestors – 5×105 Great Grandparents ago. We are related to all living things. But the titans of the sea strike a deep chord within me like a colossal bell ringing beneath the waves. The vibrations pulsate through my bones into my inner sanctum. A fundamental change within my spirit occurred the first time I gazed upon a whale up close.
In college, some friends and I went on a whale watching boat off the coast of California. For a few minutes, I was the only person on the starboard side of the boat. My friends were looking through their cameras, but I didn’t have a camera, and wanted to simply experience the encounter with my heart. This beautiful gray whale surfaced a few feet from the boat. Our eyes met for a few seconds. But I could feel the deep intellect behind that brief expressive glance. Although I appreciated nature before, that moment was the catalyst for my lifelong love of communing with nature.
Whale Song Sheet Music Visualization
In the mornings, I wander alone along the shore with seabirds and ravens as companions. I laugh as the little shorebirds rush up and down the beach snagging insects. My spirit harmonizes with the shouts of the ravens and piercing cries of the gulls. The whispers of wind swirling beneath my collar call to something primordial within my soul. I greet the ocean as it rushes up to my feet. I inevitably smile – heartened by the effervescent waters. Each walking meditation is a homecoming.
Later, as I sit at home writing, the ocean’s roar rolls through the trees like a great ambient orchestra triggering relaxing brainwaves that cleanses my mind of anxiety and remnant desolation. I imagine the whales off the coast weaving their downtempo jazz beats into lush adagios riffs. Like ancestral binaural beats, my brainwaves sync with my cousin whales’ soul symphony. For a time, we blissfully commune, not only with one another, but with all our fellow cousins across life’s grand timeline. Enjoy your days, cousins.
You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. – Buddha
Positive well-being is achieved when a person lives finds meaning through engaging happily with their life. A person who is confident and has a positive image of themselves would say they have high self-esteem. People who self identify as having high self-esteem do not feel superior to others but believe in themselves and trust their abilities. People with low self-esteem don’t trust their abilities and devalue themselves. People with low self-esteem tend to be indecisive because they fear they will mess up. Many of us need a boost to our self-esteem at times. These positive well-being tips will help you discover your true self; strengthen your relationship with the real world; and help prepare you for spiritual transformation.
1. Control your ego
2. Smile regularly
3. Adapt to uncertainty
4. Continue learning
5. Exercise regularly
6. Escape your comfort zone occasionally
7. Quit bad habits
8. Learn from friends
9. Reduce media consumption
10. Create an inspirational area in your home
12. Release the past
13. Manage stress
14. Find purpose and meaning
15. Embrace change
16. Release anger and resentment
17. Slow down
18. Appeal to all your senses (music, aromas, colors, …)
We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. Aldo Leopold
On this Earth Day, 2021, the Number One Tip for helping the environment is – Education. Education is the key to a greener healthier future.
Today is the 51st Earth Day, and, strangely, I woke up at 4:22 on this April 22, 2021. Environmental issues far too often are distilled down to the numbers – scientifically derived statistics. But the trashing and plundering of our homeworld tears at the very heart of humanity. Policy is based on a numbers game, but no numbers can spur an individual person to clean up another’s mess. Poisoning ourselves and future generations has to be m
ore than a desolate numbers game. This is where Ecology enters the discussion. “Eco” is derived from the Greek oikos – home. And “ology” study of. This is our common home and our Mother Earth needs our help to clean house.
For five decades, this day has been marked with environmental “activities”: trash cleanups, tree plantings, and generally tidying up nearby green and blue spaces. Years ago, I used to develop environmental curriculum. I worked with scientists and experts to distill vast amounts of environmental data into information for classroom teachers. For example, to explain the 10 meter resolution of satellite imagery, I would use string to create a ten meter square “pixel” on the ground. All the teachers would then step inside this pixel and tell me what they saw. What percent was grass, trees, bushes, animals? I would tell them scientists didn’t know that data because anything below the satellite resolution was a black box. We needed their students eyes on the ground to tell us about their local environment. Ecology begins in backyards and schoolyards across the world.
In the past, around Earth Day I would join with dozens of environmental education professionals to teach teachers and children the ecology of biodiversity, pollution prevention, energy conservation, etc. Our goal was to increase awareness of environmental issues, in hopes of spurring people to action. And over the years, environmental education has had a positive impact. As a teacher, there are moments when you can actually see the impact as the light goes on in students’ eyes. Whether it is the passion in your voice, the emotions on your face, the sincerity of your caring – something sparks that radiance. Those moments are why we teach. As a university lecturer in writing and literature, each year I would take my Chinese students outside the classroom on a nature walk around the campus. We would share our observations of interesting things as we wandered. And then I let them leave early to explore and write about what they discovered. Mother Nature has inspired all artists.
The happiest classes though were the younger kids classes I taught with my wife. We had our own little classroom near the university grade school. We limited our classes to eight kids at a time. I taught them for an hour. Then we would switched and my wife taught them for an hour. Chinese kids science classes are often incredibly boring because they seldom did hands on activities. All my classes ended with an activity. Ecology is a deep foundation of Taoism and the Chinese arts. So I tapped into that cultural root to propagate ecological ideas in their eager young minds. The glow in their eyes showed me they got the message. As W.B.Yeats is quoted as saying, Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.
This morning I read that American honey (and, most likely, other honey around the world) contains cesium-137 an isotope created as fallout during the above ground testing of nuclear weapons in the 1950s and 60s. Researchers found that there was an average of 870,000 atoms of cesium-137 per teaspoonful. They say that amount is “well below” the line for safe consumption. I’m fairly sure we all wish that number of radioactive atoms in our honey was zero. This number is known because four years ago a university assistant professor at William and Mary University asked his students to bring back local honey from their Spring Break. That teacher’s assignment lit a light in his students eyes, and by extension he has added fuel to my ecological lantern. Each of us can make a difference. Do not wait for big government meetings to act. Look around you and clean up a little. Shine a positive light for others to see. After a while it becomes a good habit. Happy Earth Day my friends. I’m heading to the ocean to do some spring cleaning.
You are seeking to improve your self. You wish to express yourself more fully and to be understood by others through your heartfelt expressions. Your self is unique. But you are not simply a self occupying a body born on your birthday. You are so much more. Simultaneously, you are a universe and the universe. Your soul is illuminated by glorious eternal Godlight. The journey to self-actualization and transcendence starts with Self-Expression. Let’s begin to unbox your beautiful everlasting soul with some simple wellness tips.
1. Reduce fried foods
2. Drink in moderation
3. Stop smoking
4. Don’t drink soda
5. Get enough sleep
6. Reduce weight
7. Drink enough water
8. Prepare for emergencies
9. Eat your vegetables
10. Decrease use of animal products
11. Do daily breathing exercises
12. Get physically active
13. Eat well-balanced meals
14. Wear seat-belts and helmets
15. Wear sunblock
16. Avoid bright lights before sleep
17. Build muscle mass
18. Strengthen your bones
19. Practice good hygiene
20. Wear properly fitting shoes
Excerpted from Section One of my self-help book on spiritual growth and happiness. I began this blog to spread some positive light into the darkness. I firmly believe we all can be the change we wish to see in the world, and within ourselves. Knowing yourself is true wisdom.
All that is gold does not glitter, / Not all those who wander are lost; / The old that is strong does not wither, / Deep roots are not reached by the frost. /From the ashes a fire shall be woken, / A light from the shadows shall spring…J.R.R. Tolkien – “The Fellowship of The Ring”
We wanderers have created new worlds for tens of thousands of years. Whether by choice or not, the different thinking younger brothers and sisters of the clan must walk away from the communal fires in search of what’s over the horizon. It is we, you and I, and our kind, who seek out the great mysteries, in order to better understand ourselves. America, the New World, was settled, for the most part, by the younger sons of the Old World. Perhaps we wanderers have some extrasensory ability that pulls us, like great flocks of migratory birds, in directions different from the crowd. But, more than anything, we wanderers are pathfinders. Wanderers discover the Way and mark the path for others if they choose to follow. Definition of a wanderer – a guy whose always looking beyond. – Stephen King
Although I have never met any of you wonderful readers, I think I understand a small portion of your hearts. You are seekers, wanderers of the worlds of the spirit, heart and mind. You want to understand, like I do, the invisible realms we sense everywhere we go. Let me set your mind to wandering with a question. Did you know we live in Middle-Earth? Our world sits in the middle between the upper and lower realms. In the Old Norse, Anglo Saxon, and Old Germanic languages our world was known as Middle Earth. The name Middle-Earth appears half a dozen times in the Old English epic poem “Beowulf”. And one of the foremost authorities on and translators of Beowulf was J.R.R. Tolkien. He [Bilbo] used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary… – J.R.R. Tolkien
In addition to being a great writer, J.R.R. Tolkien was a scholarly professor. One poem that inspired the writer side of Professor Tolkien (Ronald to his friends) was an Anglo Saxon elegy poem called The Wanderer. The elegy, written in Old English, is a meditation on life by a solitary warrior who has lost everything. He is called “eardstapa” – eard – earth; stapa/steppan – to step: translated as Wanderer. Tolkien is famous for the depth and breadth of his fantasy world-building. He lectured about it in 1939 in a lecture called “On Fairy Stories”. His famous lecture came right after the success of The Hobbit (which was considered a childrens’ book) and just as he was beginning the Lord of the Rings. Tolkien defined fantasy as taking place in a “faerie” a secondary realm. And, according to Tolkien, if the tale is believable enough, the story gives us a chance to step away from our everyday world. Translating the thousand year old Wanderer poem inspired Tolkien to feature a lonely wanderer in his epic tales of Middle Earth – Gandalf – the wise wanderer who is like the Norse god Odin the Allfather and god of wisdom.
Ancient northern European cultures believed wisdom was measured by how many winters one had survived. The freezing winter landscape tests the endurance of all people especially the wanderers. People banned together in clans for protection and in order to survive the winters. A wandering soul accumulates knowledge of the world through experiences in order to survive the winters of wandering. As lines from the ancient poem The Wanderer say – “This Middle-Earth each of all days so fails and falls that a man gains no wisdom before he is dealt his winters in the world”.
Each and every one of us carries sparks of the fantastic within our hearts. Our imagination and problem-solving skills wander along great flowing channels of spirit-energy. As we wander, we search through our winters of memory looking for faint traces and tracks in the sands of time. When the time is right, we manifest our own path across this middle-earth. In the evenings, our spirits strike the flint of the unknown with the steel of our resolve and light the signal fires along the horizon. You have the power within you to manifest the world you are seeking. Take the first steps. Unbind your wandering soul. Express you true self. Peace.
On April 18, 1942, 16 B-25s under the command of General James Doolittle avenged the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Doolittle Raid struck a hugs psychological blow to the Empire of Japan. Doolittle’s Raiders had to launch their raid hundreds of miles early, and the Doolittle Raiders believed there was a good chance they would have to ditch in the ocean. Doolittle’s Raiders caught a fortunate tail wind and made it to mainland China. Several of the Doolittle Raiders’ B-25s crashed off the shore of the province where I used to work in China. Doolittle’s crew bailed out near Tianmushan Mountain, also near where I used to live. And many of the other Doolittle Raiders’ B-25s crashed into the mountains around modern day Quzhou, the target airfield for the Doolittle Raiders to land. My wife and I did field research of those planes – #3 and #14 (in the order of takeoff).
Free Book on Sunday – April 18.
The story of the Doolittle’s Raiders in China is little known. I am posting my book “When Thunder Comes” for free on the anniversary of the Doolittle Tokyo Raid – April 18. I have always been a lover of peace and would like people to know more about how the American and Chinese people worked together during WWII. I met many wonderful people whose family helped evacuate the Doolittle Raiders back in 1942. I will never forget them.
If you would like to see some of the photographs of my research, you can visit the following link on my website.
If you read the book and would like to know more about this incredible harrowing time you can leave a comment below. Consider buying the book and leaving a review if you enjoyed the amazing story of the Doolittle Raiders and their Chinese rescuers.
Friday April 16 you can download my collection of reflections on life, love, nature, spiritual journey, and more.
The book is organized in progressively deeper layers of the Self: Self-Expression, Self-Esteem, Self-Awareness, Self-Actualization, and Self-Transcendence.
We are all wandering timelessly through paradise. Unboxing your soul reveals who you truly are. After a miraculous epiphany changed my life forever, I wanted to share what manifested in my life after I unboxed my soul. I hope by reading this book you can discover your own unique way to unbox your soul and manifest a brighter future. I have been a student of Taoism, Zen, as well as Asian art and culture for decades. For twelve years, I lived in China and taught writing to thousands of university students. While living in Asia, I traveled extensively and visited many spiritual places, such as the Shaolin Temple and Angkor Wat, as well as dozens of temples and sacred spaces. Many self-help methods prescribe a series of steps necessary for your advancement, but the real world does not always work that way. Religions offer paths to the same end – connecting to the Divine. And dozens of philosophies offer techniques to prepare for the journey towards enlightenment and transcendence. Just as water flows to the sea by discovering a wandering path, one’s life will meander down many paths before the true way is revealed. In this book there are over one hundred reflections in five sections through progressively deeper layers of the Self: Self-Expression, Self-Esteem, Self-Awareness, Self-Actualization, and Self-Transcendence. There are nearly one hundred fifty inspirational quotes and terms to encourage your journey. Additionally, there are two hundred tips for improving your life from general wellness to transcendence. I sincerely wish you peace and happiness on your journey. Everyone’s journey is different, but the broad steps are similar.
I have coined a new form of ecocide: Plasticide – murder by plastic
This morning I found something lying on the beach that sent shivers down my spine. Walking along the high tide line, I noticed a piece of plastic with unfamiliar writing on it. I was shocked to see what turns out to be Jawi script – the writing system used for the Malay language. Looking closer, to my utter amazement, I discovered this was a one kilogram bag of pre-fried and quick frozen French Fries. But real fright washed over me after I read what was on the back. This bag was from Brunei. And the French fries had been produced and packaged in Belgium onMARCH 26, 2021 – SIXTEEN DAYS AGO!!!
Someone had imported a kilogram of French fries, which were packaged on March 26 in Belgium. The bag must have been flown to Brunei Darussalam. Someone bought and ate the bag of fries. The package somehow ended up in the Pacific Ocean. The bag floated through the South and East China Seas and perhaps the Philippine Sea. The bag must have been carried into the Kuroshio Current past Japan and out into the North Pacific Current. This 25cm by 35cm (10 in. by 14in.) plastic sail scooted past both the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches. Overall, this piece of trash traveled over 12,000 kilometers (7,450 miles) across the Pacific Ocean in a matter of days. That doesn’t include the 11-12,000 kilometers by air to get from Belgium. In other words, this bag went from imported food to trash and traveled more than half way around the world in two weeks.
The sheer scale of globalization presented by this litter scared the living crap out of me. That is when I thought of the word – plasticide – murder by plastic. I pondered it for hours now. Did you know that Belgium is the world’s largest exporter of frozen potatoes? Over five million tons in 2018. The processed potato business is worth over two billion dollars. Apparently the growing middle class in Asia has increased demand for Belgian potato products. And the short time it took for that one kilogram bag of fried potato product to become trash is terrifying. I worried over this new form of ecocide – plasticide – all morning.
Every single day our earth is ravaged by hundreds of types pollution. But plastic pollution is a global concern. Nearly half the plastic that washes up on the world’s beaches comes from discarded fishing gear. I gather up as much as I can. I’m still trying to figure out a way to turn it into art. I try to remove plastic as I find it, because since moving to the coast, I have discovered a deep kinship with the ocean. And the discovery of this square foot of terror has upset me more than any other single bit of plastic pollution I have found.
I suppose the most disturbing element of this story is the lightning swift speed the imported French fries went from table to trash on my beach. But we cannot give up the fight. It is strange how much this has freaked me out. But a few dozen paces away I found something less shocking. As I wandered along knocking the sand off the french fries bag, I found a dollar. I hope it is a sign of a more positive future ahead.
Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye.. it also includes the inner pictures of the soul. – Edvard Munch
Imagine a scene: A clan of Ice Age people huddle together in a cave shelter. The dim sun drops below the horizon. Bitter winds howl through the valley below. The light of the communal fire carves deep shadows into the walls, and the scraps are tossed to the dogs guarding the entrance. The seer glances over his shoulder, before lifting his torch and journeying once again into the dark bowels of the cave. By squeezing through narrow gaps and crawling along tight passages, he reaches the sacred chamber. As the torch consumes the oxygen, hypoxia connects his expanded mind to the magical realm. Fundamental spirits are summoned and captured by charcoal sticks and red ocher. The link between worlds is maintained for a thousand generations. Today, when modern electric lights reveal the ancestral soul’s inner vision, art reconnects us to our primal nature.
Recently, scientific research has shown that ancient cave artists may have entered ecstatic states by knowingly deprived themselves of oxygen in order to create. Some of the most fantastic cave art in the world lies in deep narrow recesses far from the cave entrance. The lower levels of oxygen cause the brain to release dopamine. This can create a sense of euphoria, hallucinations or out of body experiences. Scientists conducting the research have experienced some of these symptoms from the low oxygen levels. It seems artists sought out these extreme conditions in order to create. For example, most of the art from one cave in France was painted 730 meters (about 2,400 feet) from the entrance. It would seem the conditions of the cave were a catalyst for the art.
Throughout history, artists, writers, and truth-seekers of all types have sought out the right conditions for their solitary endeavors. Some have been aided by intoxicants, exhaustion, meditation, etc. For all artists, repetition, routine and resolve return them to their muse. An inner radiance lights the way. They descend through the caverns of their conscious minds into the border lands of inspiration. Guided by an inner compass, artists find the spiritual ley lines to the well of their soul where they slake their thirst. All of you reading this are truth-seekers and artists. You found your way here in search of understanding. I welcome you, and try to share some of the inner pictures from my soul.
We all have had flow experiences, where our actions moved effortlessly from one to the next. It is like improvisation in Jazz. As the intoxication of the peak experience increases, the “oxygen” of normal experience is reduced. Athletes are said to be “in the zone”. And nothing beats the thrill of discovering that skill or art bubbling up from deep within you. The same can be said of yoga or meditation. In a way it is a paradox that, inspiration can be found all around us, but we must journey within to transcend our individual self.
The next time you enter your sacred space, take out your modern day charcoal and ocher. Sketch a portrait of what you see there. Share that creation with those you love and care about. If they don’t already know the way, help them on their path to understanding. The passion to create is far older than the most ancient cave paintings. Art is as fundamental to life as oxygen.
Here are a few links to recent scientific articles about cave art