Progress?

 

Over the past 2 years I have been watching a huge compound of office space, apartments and retail stores being built less than a mile from my house. It’s called Lenexa City Center, although it lies nowhere near the center of my town. I guess they mean “center” in some metaphorical sense that I don’t quite understand. Here is what the official web site has to say about the City Center development:

“Lenexa City Center is an exciting mixed-use urban development that is being built on all four corners of 87th Street Parkway and Renner Boulevard, in the center of Lenexa.

Born out of the community-driven Vision 2020 planning process, Lenexa City Center will be a key destination area that will combine a mix of shopping, restaurants, entertainment, office, residential, hotels, and public gathering areas such as parks, plazas, and a civic center all in a pedestrian-friendly, high density, new urbanism development.

At build-out, Lenexa City Center is expected to offer about 4.5 million square feet of mixed-use development on 200 acres in the I-435 corridor.”

A slow economy and the overwhelming volume of commercial real estate that currently sits empty all over Kansas City with no tenants in sight has not deterred Lenexa from building a new City Center. And each edition of my city newsletter relays the latest news of this important development. Apparently this is “PROGRESS” for our city and we should all be thrilled.

But I for one have sadly watched their “progress” over many months; first the area was bulldozed and stripped of all trees, bushes, grass – anything remotely resembling life. Then the land was reshaped and reformed until it no longer even looked like its former contours. That phase was rough for me because the old land had been a mix of pasture and trees that I enjoyed checking out every time I passed. And am I the only bleeding heart who wonders what happens to all the squirrels, bluebirds, deer, turkeys, hawks, fireflies, worms, spiders, raccoons, coyotes and other creatures that lived where a new strip mall now rises? Do we humans REALLY want to shove all other life out of the way for ourselves?

My family took a vacation road trip to Wyoming earlier this month. Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks on the western edge of Wyoming hold some amazing scenery and wildlife. It is one of the most beautiful areas in the world. This gorgeous spot was partitioned off into two National Parks over a hundred years ago so we wouldn’t be tempted to try and improve it and civilize it right out of existence (Thank you Teddy Roosevelt!). “Progress” tends to be deadly for wildlife and gorgeous scenery in every part of the country.

To get to Wyoming from KC is quite a haul by car, but I kept imagining what it would have been like to travel the 1,100+ mile distance by wagon a hundred and fifty years ago. Two days in the car is nothing compared to 6 months bumping across roadless prairie. We’ve made “progress” when it comes to fast, safe travel, haven’t we?

We drove through the Black Hills of South Dakota on our way to Wyoming. Back in 1868, the U.S. government “gave” the people that lived in the Black Hills long before white guys showed up (mainly the Lakota tribe) a small piece of the hills and grassland that the tribe held as sacred ground. Our government signed a treaty with the tribes and promised that the land would belong to them in perpetuity. But then gold was discovered in the Black Hills about 5 years later and in perpetuity didn’t mean much. Jeez – talk about indian givers! I felt like personally apologizing to every single Native American on earth after I read what my ancestors did to the Black Hills.

White guys (and I include myself in that label) have a long history of shoving others out of our way in the name of “progress”. If our kids shove others out of their way on the playground or take some other kid’s stuff, we “civilized” adults cry foul and lecture them on the error of their ways. But if our culture does it to another culture (or to another species), or if one corporation does it to a competing corporation, we label it survival of the fittest and claim that it’s “progress” towards a better, brighter future.

I think “progress” may actually just be a polite way of saying we get to do what we want and take what we want because we’re bigger and more powerful and we’re in charge.

Back home at Lenexa City Center, a complex of buildings that looks like offices and retail store space appears to be complete. But the huge parking lot outside the complex sits empty month after month. I ask that you insert Joni Mitchell singing ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ at this point in your reading for the desired effect. Meanwhile the latest city newsletter holds yet another update on the exciting developments at our new City Center.

And what does City Center “progress” look like from here? Well, “progress” is a group of empty buildings, a hideous manmade pond with prefab concrete sides and some spindly trees planted in little islands of dirt in the empty parking lot. But hey, I read yesterday that the developers plan to add a “large green space and walking trails” in the future. This must be to simulate the natural green space they bulldozed to build City Center in the first place…Hmmm. I guess it all doesn’t have to make sense to me. Just as long as I keep paying my taxes…

prog-ress n 1. Movement toward a goal. 2. Development; unfolding. 3. Steady improvement of a society or civilization.
Definition from the American Heritage Dictionary.

An Oily Reminder

photo by Gay, AP May 28, 2010

I watch our best and brightest engineers try and fail day after day to stop millions of gallons of crude oil from spewing into the Gulf of Mexico. I read about how many blowout prevention procedures and devices had to fail to create this disaster and I cannot decide if I want to cry, scream in rage or curl up in a fetal position and suck my thumb for the rest of the afternoon.

How arrogant we are to think we can safely pull crude oil from an oil field that is sitting miles beneath the ocean surface with “minimal risk of a toxic spill”. And now we have a toxic spill of epic proportions – the massive amount of oil spewing into the ocean boggles the mind. 20+ million gallons and counting.

No human design that attempts to manipulate and control Mother Nature is EVER failsafe. Nature kicks our skinny little human butts every time.

Remember the levees that were supposed to channel and control the Mississippi? Katrina slapped the Army Corp. of Engineers around and showed us exactly how “secure” that levee system kept New Orleans.

Remember the unsinkable Titanic and what one iceberg did to it?

Remember the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl that should have never spewed that radioactive cloud?

When are we going to learn? When are we going to stop acting like macho teenagers who think they can take on the world, do whatever they want and never get hurt?

I wonder if God might be trying to tell us something important? Like stop being such arrogant twits!!

Nature is WAY more complicated than our brains can comprehend. And humans will NEVER EVER be wise enough to actually control Nature.

Maybe we should figure out how to honor and learn from Mother Nature instead of pushing her around and trying to manipulate and control her. There is a basic level of respect for Nature that seems to be missing here.

Call me a wienie greenie or a pagan tree worshipper – whatever. But I think Mother Nature MIGHT still have a few things to teach us.

The Coming Storm

Last week I went for a walk in the woods. There is a path near my house that I love. It winds through the woods next to an untamed year-round creek. I’m wandering down the creek path and I know a big thunderstorm is coming. I saw the storm brewing before I left home, but I love my time on this trail, so I risk a walk in the woods anyway.

I am walking and keeping an eye on the storm clouds that are rapidly building in the north sky. But I’m enjoying my walk so much that I extend it a bit, and then a bit more. I get cocky and misjudge how fast the storm is rolling in. And for my cockiness I ended up getting rained on. Not drenched, just a little damp. Just a gentle schooling from Mother Nature, thank God!

That’s how I hope to weather all the storms in my life; maybe just a little damp but not drenched and no permanent structural damage. I don’t want to end up in chaos at the epicenter of any storm – I have no desire to end up like those Japanese fishermen downwind from a broken nuclear power plant, or those folks in Joplin with no basements where the tornados decided to touch down a few weeks ago. Most of us really cannot handle being at the epicenter, can we? Most of us have no urge to fly right through the eye of the hurricane in a small metal plane. Oh yes, the epicenter is exciting and enticing. Some people love hanging out there. It whispers a siren song that I definitely hear. I’m the one walking in the woods with a thunderstorm brewing on the horizon.

This is one lesson that I have learned the hard way when doing energetic healing work. How close do I want to be to the center of the action, the center of the storm? Through years of trial and error, I have learned that I cannot stay healthy and alive if I hang out in the epicenter of a client’s healing storm. My job is to be an anchor point of calm, on the edge of the action rather than trying to ride the wild energies at the epicenter. I stay healthy and my clients do amazing healing work when I anchor and hold the edges of their dance floor. A client who is emotionally or mentally thrashing through a traumatic release or change needs a calm, deep anchor NOT a dance partner. I picture a giant old sycamore tree anchored in the earth next to this path I love. She’s a calm anchor!

I go visit Grandma Sycamore every time I walk the Mill Creek path. She’s a very cool tree. But on this particular walk, on this particular day, I notice a big chunk of bark lying behind her trunk. When I stop to examine the trunk, I see that the core of Grandma Sycamore is now decaying, rotting away. She has a huge hole at her center. Her time is almost finished here at the edge of the path. Soon she will fall and make way for new trees. I am sad to see this – I have grown to love this tree – I will miss her. She had many years here; wide and tall, majestically anchoring this piece of earth. Now her time is ending.

The same organic cycle of birth, growth and decay happens with everything in Nature. EVERY living thing – including the civilizations that man builds – springs up from the decaying earth left behind from those who came before. We are born, we grow and flourish, then decay and die out. Life on Earth is all about cycles.

Change is inevitable. And change can be very scary, like a huge thunderstorm brewing on the horizon. But If I get still and watch and listen – if I use my senses to really observe, I begin to notice that change is coming before it gets here and I can protect myself. When I slow down and look, I notice that the core of the tree is rotting long before it gets so unstable that it falls on me. In stillness I can see the change coming just like a big storm building  on the horizon.

I see a storm coming for my country. I am troubled by the chaos that the US seems to be spiraling into. A US dollar with no gold behind it, massive debt, medical treatments that make people poorer and sicker, grocery stores full of food that isn’t really food, politicians that pontificate and never really change anything – it is so easy to turn into a completely paranoid pessimist. Yet even my more rational optimistic self cannot deny the growing rot at the core of our economy, of our food supply, of our healthcare and our political structures. Beautiful proud strong Grandma Sycamore weakens with age and eventually rots at the core and falls to make way for new life. And our proud beautiful strong US culture seems ready to do the same just like the Mayans and the Romans and the European empires of earlier times. I try to remember that it’s not a good thing or a bad thing, it just is; cultures grow and flourish and then die out just like trees.

I stop and look around and see a world that has swung so far into the yang, active, doing energies. We are too active, too busy, too focused on owning and controlling everything we see. America has spent so much energy trying to conquer and master everything.  Straightening rivers, digging holes in the earth to pull out energy to burn, building more and more of the biggest vehicles and buildings in the world even though they consume energy like some giant ravenous beasts, processing the fruits of nature until they don’t even resemble fruit anymore… I could rant on and on. This country is so deep in Yang energy, it cannot seem to stop to even catch a breath!

US cities like Chicago and LA and New York feel like Yang energy on steroids to me; busy little ant humans running here and there on foot – or even more Yang yet, zooming from place to place in little metal cars and big metal planes. We get instant news and entertainment 24/7 on our TV’s and computers and iPod’s and Blackberries. Could we be less still, less receptive??

It is the nature of all organic systems to pendulum back and forth between yin and yang states, constantly seeking a balance point somewhere in the middle. And Western civilization is an organic system; civilizations seek balance and homeostasis just like our own body systems do. So a pendulum shift in this country away from yang seems obvious and inevitable to me. The obvious correction for this organic system is to pendulum back toward yin receptive quiet energies, qualities or ways of being. And the pendulum swing is inevitable; ALL organic systems do it. So I look around and know a shift is coming our way. And I also sense that this cultural shift could get quite chaotic and messy. I want to spiritually embrace and encourage this worldwide natural shift back into receptive mother yin energy. And I also want to protect my family in what could be a wild chaotic storm.

So I close with the questions that my husband and I find ourselves wrestling with this year; What can I do to help my family prepare for this storm? What can I do NOW, before the storm gets here, so that my family can emerge from storm just a little damp? How do I best help my friends and neighbors do the same?

And just as important to me; what do I want to shift towards? Even in the worst storm I have choices about what’s best for me, my family, my country. What is the new vision I want to anchor in and hold for my family, for everyone I love, for America? What seeds can I plant now so that they will sprout into life and flourish after this storm passes?

Wet Mother

There’s a message in the water, they say
Yes! I cry
She says dive in, enjoy
Love your juice
The wet messy wonder
In the flow of life.

There’s emotion in the water, they say
Yes! I cry
All tears and fears
Rage and sorrow
The entire saga is there
Within your flow.

This Earth’s all about the water, they say
Yes! I cry
Whales sing their song
A love for mother ocean
Who birthed you
And flows within still.

You are more water than solid, they say
Yes! I cry
The better to flow
Within, ride ocean’s wave
Connect with mother
Warm wet mama.
Juicy blue.

Finding Ground

Foggy Foothills
     Yesterday the dogwood tree in my yard was covered with green leaves; this morning all but two low branches are deep maroon. Amazing how fast that shift happened. Autumn has been whispering its way towards Kansas City for weeks. The wild rainstorm yesterday seems to have signaled its official arrival. The air is cooler, crisper today. And I notice leaves turning yellow, orange and maroon everywhere I look. Changes in my personal life are like that; little hints of change and subtle shifts happen that I often miss or ignore. Then, wham, a storm blows through and in the aftermath I look around surprised to see profound changes in myself or those around me.

I took a walk down the creek path this morning. The day is gorgeous; sunny with a cool wind and high wispy clouds in a bright blue sky. Jacket weather is here. Quite a contrast with yesterday’s cold gray skies and hours of torrential downpour. The heavy rains left the creek high, very high. And the storm water has noticeably altered the creek in just one day. In one spot, long hairy orange tree roots dangle in mid-air over the far curve of the creek bank. Yesterday the roots were encased in dirt; today they dangle free and unsupported. I have had days like that – I wake up to discover that the very ground I have been rooted in and attached to is suddenly gone.

Most humans are not very good at handling change and I am no exception. With change comes fear; that feeling of the world shifting out from under me, of dangling in mid-air without support is very scary. Sometimes I get stuck in that state of fear and I start to worry that problems and instability are all I have to look forward to.

I say that I believe in a benevolent God; a God who takes care of the earth and all living creatures; a God who it omnipotent and all-knowing; a God from which all of life flows. And yet when my path gets rough or the world seems dark, I have trouble trusting that God truly does know what she is doing and all is well.

Any change or shift in my life can trigger the fear. The shift can be something as simple as a change in my schedule or diet, or as profound as divorcing my first husband. The size or importance of the shift does not necessarily determine how well I cope with the change. Any shift, big or small, can be difficult.
The trees on the creek bank seemed to handle change better than I normally do. Trees instinctually know to lean away from instability and sink new roots into whatever ground is left to support them. In contrast, I flounder for days, feeling angry and off balance, bemoaning whatever changed in my life. I grieve for the support I lost. I forget to breathe and lean into the support I still have.

Trees have a visceral trust in the Universe or Earth to support them and provide for them no matter what happens. I have trouble trusting in the good of the Universe that profoundly in the midst of change. I get caught up in grieving what I have lost instead of opening to what is now possible. I forget to pray or meditate and I lose my connection to ground.

Faith and trust in the good of God is my ground, the core bedrock that won’t shift out from under me no matter what. For me, faith and trust come from cultivating my internal KNOWING sense of God as good and benevolent rather than mean or indifferent. That loving essence of God is always with me, around me, within me. I sense it when I work with clients, when I pray, when I watch children play, when I hug someone. And yet I also forget it again and again. I lose my connection to God and I flounder.

Buddhism tells me that I suffer when I cling and grasp, when I try to keep things from changing. Nothing is permanent except Buddha or God. And Christianity tells me to build my faith on the rock of Christ. Judaism implores me to trust in the Lord. Peace of mind comes from letting go and trusting that God or Buddha is in charge. Letting go and trusting in God to handle the affairs of the world is the only answer.

I find that I must tend to my trust and faith like a tender young seedling in my garden. My faith needs to soak up the sun of other people’s loving, positive energy. And then I must water it with prayer and meditation; and trust that it already knows how to grow;

I must feed my faith by actively noticing the good in people, the love in the world. Water and feed, water and feed until my tiny bit of faith and trust in the good of God grows stronger, more resilient, more certain. Water and feed my seedling again and again until one day I discover that my seedling has grown bigger and stronger and is deeply rooted in all directions. Then every little shift no longer throws me into doubt and fear. I can be as calm as the trees on the bank of the creek. I can remember that all is well.

The Green

Green, everywhere green

Falling water cascades

Ripples out anew.

 

Icy fingers caress

I glide through

Search for other side.

 

A shiver of fear

I am in the heart

Behind the falling tears.