the Community of Humanity

One of the important things we do at Inner Child is to create bridges between the various segments of humanity. Janet and  I had the opportunity in 2015 to travel to Kosovo and participate in The Kosovo International Poetry Festival. During our time there we were able to establish connections and create friendships with a variety of wonderful poets from all over the world. One of the significant things we learned was that as a Westerner, American, our perspectives were limited . . .  very narrow!

As a Writer Poet, Publisher we found ourselves in a position to further develop these relationships, and thus take a role in the sharing of these voices here in the west.

Following we would like to take this opportunity to introduce to you an Iraqi Poet, Ms. Faleeha Hasan. I hope you enjoy the article and her words. I hope you too will cross the bridge and embrace her as a part of our human family.

Bless Up



Faleeha Hasan

Faleeha Hassan is a poet, teacher, editor, writer born in Najaf, Iraq, in 1967, who now lives in the United States. She is the first woman who wrote poetry for children in Iraq. She is leading poetic feminist movement in the holy city of Najaf.

Faleeha received her master's degree in Arabic literature, and has published sixteen collections of poetry in Arabic; Being a Girl, and a visit to the Museum of the shadows, five titles for my sea-friendly, although the later poems to the mother, Gardenia perfume, and a collection of poems for children, The Guardian dreams. It includes its Arabic prose Hazinia or lack of joy cells and freckles water (short story). ........Etc

Faleeha’s Poetry has been translated into English, Turkmen, Bosevih, Indian, French, Italian, German, Kurdish, Spain and Albania. She has received awards from the linguists and translators Arab Society (AWB) and the Festival of creativity Najafi for 2012, as well as Naziq God Award angels, Al Mu'tamar Prize for Poetry, and the award short story of the martyr mihrab and institution. Faleeha is a sitting member on the boards of Baniqya Member, a quarterly in Najaf; Rivers Echo (Echo Mesopotamia); Iraqis in Najaf and Writers Association; Iraqi Union; a member of the Literary Women and Sinonu (ie Swift) Association in Denmark; The Society of Poets beyond borders; and Poets of the Global Community.

Her poems and her stories have been published in a variety American magazines such as  : Philadelphia Poets 22; Harbinger Asylum; Brooklyn Rail (AprIl 2016); Screaminmamas; The Galway Review; Words without Borders; TXTOBJX; Intranslation; SJ Magazine; Nondoc;

Wordgathering; SCARLET LEAF REVIEW; The Courier-Post; I am not a silent poet; Taosjournal; Inner Child Press; Press of Atlantic City.

You may contact Faleeha via her E Mail :

Faleeha’s Poetry

Not Maryam                  

Father, I am not Maryam.

Not Maryam.

Despite that

The one you see

Utter between you,

I am not his mother

And he is not borne from me

Yet the one called Jesus

belongs to me.

I am not Maryam, father

Not Maryam.

I buy my bread with my own tears

Every time

You don’t feed me.

Your sky is grapes

And I have not a prophet’s uncle

and My mother didn’t sell me

For the Qibla* of her prayers.

Why then do I see the deaf

And blind

Fight me at my doorstep?

Not Maryam, father.

I am not Maryam.

I was not a sister to Harun *

My hands are my witnesses

They tire of shaking

the root of your palms

And I did not dream

of flour falling into my hands

The drink I brought

Is tasteful only to myself.

What’s with these horses

Bleeding and whining

At my sight?

I am not Maryam, father.

I am not her.

Your women seek

me for the onset of labour.

And this face

Its features moulded

by the palm of the wind

is ruined by exile.

For the first dawn

I do not rise to deceit,

I am not hanged -

and have no fear.

I am not Maryam, father

I am not Maryam.

But I present myself

As a temple

Lest you claim

that I am Maryam.

~ * ~

* Qibla: the direction that a Muslim faces when performing their daily prayers.

* Harun: (Harun Al Rashid 766-809) His date of birth is debatable. The Thousand and One Nights tales were based on him and his imagination.

Translated by Dikra Ridha

At The Margin of The War

"Those are stars,"
says the child,
as airplanes distort the face of the sky.
"I used to rest my head,”
his sister says, "upon his kind arms.
I don't remember how we
found the bones of the murdered one
who was my Daddy who
was defending us on this mirage-earth,
asking a shadow; how did this begin?"
The ash women cry,
"These are the portents of those lost
in the darkness of the prisons."
One of them calls for help,
"I didn't find him.
He left without a helmet,
and nothing distinguishes him
but his heart.
He was like my country
too great to bear.
They returned many corpses
but not his."
"These are the marks of a faded morning,"
says the woman who, still
tidying the bed blankets,
dreams he may come in one longing night,
lights a match,
holds back grief.
"These are the memories of past years,"
says one who has just come.
"To whom has my age been sold as wood fire
for a fire that has raged for twenty-three years
without ending?
These are mirrors for my hollow life.”
Birds cry as they follow an Apache squadron,
"Where are the windows?
Where are the windows?
We want air!" 

Translated by Soheil Najm

The Wagon    

So Like a man inured to failure,

We climbed aboard the wagon,

And The driver, only the driver,

Began to listen as the cadence of our deprivation

—Thud. . .. Clunk. . . and so on-

-Infiltrated the wagon’s pores,

Starting with that first dirt road.

Our lives’ parasols disappointed us

When we shared sorrows

Without fancy titles,

while Reaping lethargy and frustration.

It wasn’t only the driver, or The horse, or Our heads

That looked meager;

The wagon’s outlook did too.


Translated by William M. Hutchins

My Mother and Father   

My innocence nudges me

As she points to the creases of my bedding on the ground.


While the bed itself, with the imbecility of its sheets,

Lies rejected in the corner of the room.


My parents’ smiles widen with the stupidity of the covers.


They alone, and the bed

proved to me my innocence and the idiocy of a tidy bed.


Even if I inherited the furniture, children

And the creases under the eyes,


Every time my bed rubs in the carpet’s weave,

I am still baffled by the wideness of their smiles,

As I lie between my children

On a stupid, tidy bed.

Translated by Dikra Ridha 

A Southerner         

Oh I forgot.

The war that left us for two seconds

Yes, only two seconds, I forgot to throw a stone after it

- As my mother said-

So it returned with all its might

and swallowed us whole

A southerner

Of shyness and apples

Wars grilled me on their fires


I don’t fear the beautiful face of war

The letters make me a liar

And paper whiteness mocks my words

I am southerner 

Sadness grinds me to make the scents of sorrows

And jaded by windowsills of houses where birds don’t visit

I ask

When will my heart mature?

I am southerner 

I sleep little

And dream between one heartbeat and another

That a branch leans over

And asks: who will replace the art of spying by revealing identity?


A southerner

I know the meaning of similes in politics

And the pungencies of onions

They both evoke my tears.


Translated by Dikra Ridha 

Faleeha’s Prayer


I beg You, God,

Help us:

We who are children just turned forty,

We who still don’t know how to shake the gooey skin from our pithy words.

We haven’t wandered aimlessly with a dog


Because our grandfathers’ bones have been filling the cemeteries that our streets demand.

We haven’t drunk coffee,

Because the noise of their artillery really didn’t allow us to sleep.

Please, God,

When you are nigh, we shouldn’t dream of sheltering under blankets;

We want to see no matter what You have in mind for us

I beg You!

Don’t make matters go from bad to worse!

We're still kids--



Translated by William Hutchins


Poets Not Politicians Showcasing Iraqi Poet, Faleeha Hassan

 I'd like to came to you but, our street are red and I do not have but my white dress

 This is how the poem comes from illogic. It appears without expectation like a wild flower that grows between two rocks. You don’t expect its arrival but with its axe it beats inside your head so hard giving you a headache. Not the headache you get when the meanings fight amongst themselves, trying to choose words that suit them to appear in harmony like a fashion model in her integrated look. So instead of writing to your beloved: ‘you’re handsome’ you see it jump from your hands, I mean the poem, and it tells him:

I see you so beautiful like a spark of lightning,

Humble like a wall painted in blue.

And when it describes your loneliness it says: like a wheat spike that survived the scythe of my madness!

It is not easy being a poet and continue to function in your family and your job, for example your children will not accept that you write them a eulogy instead of making them lunch. Your boss demands that you keep an eye on the details of your work instead of taking a moment to watch the wings of a passing butterfly. The poem comes despite your intentions and theirs. If you don’t want to attend, it comes while you’re busy washing your socks or changing nappies. A poem is like a tyrant; it has the status of old kings. It permeates you deeply, and instead of complaining of your miserable day, you will look up and sing:

Like the sorrowful sighs from my chest

The clouds pass in the sky

This is the way of the poem. It has no specific arrival time, and it doesn’t ask for a chair and table to write. Great poems have been written on our paper napkins. All it seeks is the heart of a child that doesn’t know deceit and a voice that can sing no matter how loud the thunder roars. 


The World Needs Poets More Than it Needs Politicians


 The country I come from made me say this, and I am not just saying, I believe in this.

 I am the one who have been living, since my adolescence years, a series of wars, one of which the Iraq-Iran war, which the Iraqi government believed it was going to end in ten days, so they closed our schools, thinking that a ten days is enough to end a border demarcation dispute.

 They did not know that the war which lasted eight years, will kill all my male friends who had enrolled in the army forcefully as they reached eighteen years. Yes, most of them had been killed and their mothers only got the remains of their bodies in boxes of wood wrapped in the flag of Iraq.

 Others had been taken captives to face imprisonment and torture, and the remainder remained missing, and a few had returned disabled without a leg or an arm.

 I wonder if our rulers were poets, and not politicians, would their poet-ness allow us to see the the black banners occupying our walls every day?

 I don’t think that there is a poet-even if he becomes a king—who can allow the rivers of blood to cover the streets of their cities.

 I remember how the people of Basra forced to leave their towns fearing death, and fled to neighboring counties such as, Najaf and Karbal, and how they lived in public places without jobs, and how to prices arose, where the new cities no longer accommodated the displaced.

 If our rulers were poets, they would have not allowed  the war to be waged.

 After the war with Iran had ended, another war war with Kuwait started. Back then, my father and brother were among the victims. My father who left us to support the army to protect the borders, and my brother went with the rest of the soldiers to fight in the front lines. In a day and night, they burned the oil wells and our sky became dark.

I swear to God that I saw with my own eyes the day the sky has turned into a gloomy color and my mother almost choked out in the smoke as she had asthma, for lack of oxygen. For sometime we breathed black smoke and ash instead of air, and the soot, which crept up on us from Kuwait.

 I wonder if there is a poet who replaces the blue sky with a black one?

 When my mother almost died of the disease and the longing for the absence of my father, I went to the battlefield and when I approached our city of Najaf, searching for him, I saw the bodies of soldiers being eaten by dogs, and burned tanks, and wholes everywhere.

 I was asking the soldiers about my father’s whereabouts, and after much effort, I found him sitting embracing the gun and looking towards the horizon unaware of what was happening. He hugged and kissed me and reprimanded me for coming to the battlefield.  I told him that my mother was very sick, and he asked me to take her to the hospital and and God would provide for her, he said. He looked again to the sky and told me to hurry up and leave before the attack.

 I returned home with a wound in my memory that has never been healed, even after the Kuwait war ended and my brother returned with the rest of the soldiers on foot without water and food, cutting the desert. Imagine yourself walking the desert between Kuwait and Iraq and how your feet would crack and swell, and how to grapple with thirst and hunger.

 We do not know how many soldiers who ate the dry thistle, which they found in the desert, and how many of whom had resembled my brother, who ate the pray paper that my mother stuck in his pocket, because of severity of hunger.

 But once my brother arrived at the house, the police security men came and took him to prison, for violating the military commands and leaving the battle. Three months passed of looking for my brother, to no avail, and someone told us that he was executed. But God is gracious to when in a cold night we were as usual sitting talking about my brother, and remembering him, we heard knocking on the door I ran and I opened it and found my brother in a long beard and torn clothes. He entered did not uttering a word while we tried to talk with him, he escaped to his room and came out two days later.

 My brother lived depressed, not smiling, until after a year of his arrival, and whenever somebody tried to ask him about what happened to him says: Do not be cruel like them, let me forget!

 Yes, if our rulers were poets, we would not have lived in hunger.  I remember at one point, after we returned to the holy cities of Najaf, driving along the Mashkhab (which is a place we used to hide in because it is dense with palm trees and makes a good shelter during bombing of the aircraft. When we returned to our homes, we did not have for months and months, like most of the people, food,  water, fuel, or electricity. It was my mother who made us bread in the pan, made of dry chickpeas, and we had one barrel of water for everything. Most people drank straight from rivers and puddles. One day my father filled a gallon of water to someone knocking at the door, and he returned the open gallon filled with dates. That night I remember we slept with our stomachs full, from dates and the chickpeas bread.

 When the sanction imposed on Iraq, I was working as high school, my salary of three thousands of Iraqi dinars which is worth two dollars a month-- Imagine how it was like to live in such a situation.

 Yes, if it we were ruled by a poet, he would not have allowed all this destruction, and war that affect humanity,  and the streets would have become green and we would have realized our aspirations in love and peace. For the mind of a poet is filled with white, unlike the imagination of politicians who promise evil, and make the poor poorer and the rich increasingly greedy.

If the poet became the head of the government would not need to attach photos of him on our walls, or statutes of him in the squares. We would see a smile in his face like a little baby, and we would hear his voice with the singing of the birds.

 And we would get rid of all political newspapers and magazines that they appear in a new mask every day.

 And instead of news we will listen to the poems.


 Faleeha Hassan


          My name is Faleeha Hassan  I'm a poet, writer, playwright, teacher, and editor

          I was born in Najaf Iraq, in 1967 and received my Master of Arts degree in Arabic literature from University of Kufa, in Najif, Iraq, in 2006 and I published several collections of my poetry in the Arabic language. I having published 20 books

          I have been both an editor of a poetry magazine, Banqya Quarterly in Najif, Iraq (2004-2011) and a newspaper of general circulation, Sada Alnareen, 2006-2011in Najif, Iraq.   I currently sits on the Editorial Boards of two publications   

          Over 100 newspaper articles have been written about me and my poetry, and I have received many prestigious awards throughout the Middle East and beyond for my writing. I belong to a number prominent professional writing associations and is still active in the cultural activities of her country of which one play is currently being performed in Iraq 


Awards Received From:

          *World Association of Arab Translators and Linguists (WATA)

          *The Najafi Creative Festival for 2012

          The Prize of Naziq al-Malaika 2008*

          The Prize of al-Mu'temar for poetry 2010*

          The short story prize of the Shaheed al-Mihrab Foundation*

          *Phoenix International Festival of Arts and Culture.  The judges from Holland traveled to Iraq to award her the prize, 2010.

          My poetry had been translated into English, Italian, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Kurdish, Indian, Busavih, Hebrew  and Turkmen languages

          My poetry have had been published in the Arabic, English, Turkmen, Hindu, Spanish, Swedish, and German  languages in England, Sweden, Holland, Spain, Mexico Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Turkistan,  India and the United States.

          I have had translated poetry from English into Arabic for poets Maya Angelou, Sylvia Plath, Jack Hirshman, Richard Wright and David Steinberg….etc

*Three who cannot smile today

 The Mother she waves farewell to her son now how getting ready to go to the war,

And the soldier he was running down towards the gate of the war,

And I a little girl watching from my window my grandmother shed tears when she waves  farewell to my  father and  I sigh for them.

What a wonderful world!


When on November nights

I place my arm under my head

I try to ignore the piece of cardboard spread beneath me,

The holes in my pants,

My empty pockets,

My shoes that bear no trace of their original color--

What was it?--

My gray hair, which matches with my beard,

My voice that echoes like an empty bowl,

The yellow leaves covering me now, and

The kicks of joggers, who try to roll me off the sidewalk.

I try to forget all these things, even my own stink,

So I can remember Louis Armstrong singing, “What a wonderful


 Faleeha Hassan 

*the war plan

 In the morning

I will wash the dishes

I intend to do that believe me,

But the bomb blast change my plan,

I'm indifferent to the dirty dishes when the house becomes lost its roof!

 Faleeha Hassan    

We do not know how many soldiers who ate the dry thistle, which they found in the desert, and how many of whom had resembled my brother, who ate the pray paper that my mother stuck in his pocket, because of severity of hunger.

 But once my brother arrived at the house, the police security men came and took him to prison, for violating the military commands and leaving the battle. Three months passed of looking for my brother, to no avail, and someone told us that he was executed. But God is gracious to when in a cold night we were as usual sitting talking about my brother, and remembering him, we heard knocking on the door I ran and I opened it and found my brother in a long beard and torn clothes. He entered did not uttering a word while we tried to talk with him, he escaped to his room and came out two days later.

 My brother lived depressed, not smiling, until after a year of his arrival, and whenever somebody tried to ask him about what happened to him says: Do not be cruel like them, let me forget!

 Yes, if our rulers were poets, we would not have lived in hunger.  I remember at one point, after we returned to the holy cities of Najaf, driving along the Mashkhab (which is a place we used to hide in because it is dense with palm trees and makes a good shelter during bombing of the aircraft. When we returned to our homes, we did not have for months and months, like most of the people, food,  water, fuel, or electricity. It was my mother who made us bread in the pan, made of dry chickpeas, and we had one barrel of water for everything. Most people drank straight from rivers and puddles. One day my father filled a gallon of water to someone knocking at the door, and he returned the open gallon filled with dates. That night I remember we slept with our stomachs full, from dates and the chickpeas bread.

 When the sanction imposed on Iraq, I was working as high school, my salary of three thousands of Iraqi dinars which is worth two dollars a month-- Imagine how it was like to live in such a situation.

 Yes, if it we were ruled by a poet, he would not have allowed all this destruction, and war that affect humanity,  and the streets would have become green and we would have realized our aspirations in love and peace. For the mind of a poet is filled with white, unlike the imagination of politicians who promise evil, and make the poor poorer and the rich increasingly greedy.

If the poet became the head of the government would not need to attach photos of him on our walls, or statutes of him in the squares. We would see a smile in his face like a little baby, and we would hear his voice with the singing of the birds.

 And we would get rid of all political newspapers and magazines that they appear in a new mask every day.

 And instead of news we will listen to the poems.


Great Food

Fresh Cuisine Recipe Book: Sugar/Gluten Free & Vegan Recipes, to uplift and enhance your lifestyle  

            'Fresh Cuisine Recipe Book' was inspired by several reasons, mostly health related, which can be challenging, Amanda has created a tool to help and inspire others, who need to make these changes.  The book is built on her already existing vegan/vegetarian cookbook, also after having many requests for gluten/sugar free recipes.

            The recipes are healthy, with a balance of ingredients and tasty..  There are plenty of recipes using proteins.  This book is great for vegetarians, vegans and those wanting sugar/gluten- free foods.  Great for any health conscious people really, and a healthy pantry!!

            This gluten/sugar and vegan cookbook has unique recipes sweetened with fresh fruits, nuts and spices.  They are delicious and are easy, practical to make.  A real selection and variety is included suiting different tastes

.             Many health conditions, can be improved by eliminating gluten and sugars.  Most naturopaths recommend using fresh whole foods including fruit, vegetables, nuts/seeds, bean and pulses that are fresh, natural food, essential for good health.

             Amanda's own column 'Remedies in the Pantry' was in Health Options Magazine for 3 years.  Plus she's been freelance journalist for other magazines and written music, produced a musical, resulting in two different CD's ie Celeste Music.  She has a Certificate in Natural Therapies and has studied products in various health shops. She has lots of experience in nutrition and learning about health.  The purpose of this diet is to cleanse the intestine and liver.  Releasing toxins from the body, also assisting in weight loss. Learning to taste real foods again is a great experience and becomes the acquired taste!

            While detoxing the body, these recipes are suitable for most diets, that are used to increase health.  The recipes use fresh produce, ensuring goodness!  Enjoy using raw and cooked whole foods, which deliver enzymes and nutrients.  These are helpful for the digestive system and the recipes use minimal, extra virgin olive oil; fantastic for the liver!

            In some cases, some oil is needed, in the baking and for greasing trays/pans.  So extra virgin olive oil is used here and sometimes water, can replace this ie when baking vegetables.  Where possible, it's actually best, to pour the oil on afterwards.  So that it is not heated and therefore it keeps its nutrients.

           Syrups and dried fruit, often used in 'sugar-free' recipes are high in sugar.  This book is avoids these, as fresh fruit/nuts/spices have an amount of sugar, that the body can cope with.  Although it's good to be cautious, in over using fruit, some nuts or sweet veges, if sensitive to sugar. It is amazing how it helps the feeling of emotional balance too.  Plus having the elimination organs, such as the colon, clean provides clarity.  Also it can help with spiritual health too, being able to align and connect with a higher source can be improved with a clear mind/body.  So mood and happiness improves also, which is a bonus.

            For dining out, it's best to research menus prior to going.  Most places are happy to cater to special diets, if they have a bit of notice.  It's also nice as the customer, have it all pre-arranged.  Sometimes we might need to be flexible, yet it is really interesting how many places do or don’t use fresh foods. Happy cooking and health!

Healing and the Poet's Brain


Kimberly Burnham

Not everyone aspires to be a poet. Not everyone enjoys reading poetry but perhaps we should rethink the role of poetry in individual healing and brain health. Start at the beginning with the feeling—what is that feeling—that creates a stirring poem.

“A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness," said Robert Frost.

Poems are also for finding those things that will shift the sickness and the despair into hope, inner peace, and a sense of freedom. 

The Peace of Wild Things 

by Wendell Berry

"When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

Poetry, Storytelling, and Blood Pressure

Telling your story in prose or poetry is helpful in letting go of stress and to decrease blood pressure symptoms. This study showed that "storytelling is emerging as a powerful tool for health promotion in vulnerable populations. The storytelling intervention produced substantial and significant improvements in blood pressure for patients with baseline uncontrolled hypertension," according to Houston, T. K., J. J. Allison, et al. (2011). "Culturally appropriate storytelling to improve blood pressure: a randomized trial." Ann Intern Med 154(2): 77-84.

Who do you tell your story to? Whose stories do you hear? Try writing a short story or poem about an experience you have had.

“...and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?” Vincent van Gogh


Recovery From Serious Illness

In a study that aimed to explore the effect of a poetry writing program for people who had experienced a serious mental illness researchers said, "Participants responded enthusiastically and each group demonstrated an increase in wellbeing over the course of their workshop, moving them from medium to low risk on the Kessler-10, a measure of wellbeing. Participants enjoyed the challenge of writing and the companionship of other group members. Psychiatrists are in a position to encourage patients who have experienced a serious illness to explore writing as a way of coming to terms with their experiences," according to Rickett, C., C. Greive, et al. (2011). "Something to hang my life on: the health benefits of writing poetry for people with serious illnesses." Australas Psychiatry 19(3): 265-268.

These studies seem to indicate that poetry writing and storytelling can contribute to physical and mental health. It can also help us connect to the reader or listener of our story and helps us imagine someone else's feelings during an experience they tell us.

“Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet,” said Plato.


Dementia and Brain Power Help

An article in "Dementia" reported, "This article focuses on poetry interventions as one example of cultural arts interventions. The use of poetry might seem counterintuitive, given that people with dementia lose their language abilities and that poetry is regarded to be the most complex literary form. I argue that expanding on existing research on poetry interventions from a health and science perspective with a humanities approach will help illuminate how poetry works to enhance the exchange with people with dementia. Drawing on participant observations of poetry interventions by Gary Glazner (Alzheimer's Poetry Project, USA) at the New York Memory Center, I frame poetry interventions as a specific form of oral poetry in which people with dementia are positioned as cocreators of embodied texts and directly benefit from the power of the spoken word," said Swinnen, A. M. (2014). "Healing words: A study of poetry interventions in dementia care." Dementia (London).

Another study reported on a series of poetry writing workshops, "All of the women said that they benefited from the workshops, but their experiences differed greatly. Themes included competence and self-efficacy, personal growth, wanting to contribute and poetry writing as a way of coping with the progression of the condition. Creative activities such as writing poetry hold promise for enhancing the quality of life of people with dementia," according to Petrescu, I., K. MacFarlane, et al. (2014). "Psychological effects of poetry workshops with people with early stage dementia: an exploratory study." Dementia (London) 13(2): 207-215.

Poetry enhances the quality of life of people with dementia and perhaps anyone who writes or reads poetry. Do you know a poet? Ask them how their life is better because of poetry. 

Role of Interfaith Group in World Peace


Kimberly Burnham

Are you part of a religious or spiritual community? Do you feel connected and understood by your neighbors? Do you feel like we are all part of the community of humanity?

There are some religious communities that are trying to convert people from other religious communities to their way of seeing the world and interacting with the powers that be in the universe. But more and more today, interfaith communities are springing up, perhaps in response to hate speech or bigotry and sometimes in an effort to be proactive and create peace.

Communities that are trying to convert people to their religious beliefs and interfaith communities are very different and have a very different impact of world peace.

Spokane, Washington has a very active interfaith community. Each month or so, the Spokane Interfaith Council creates an event called Meet The Neighbors. This month we met at the Islamic Center of Spokane. The purpose is education, an opportunity to see the inside of another religion's sacred space, and talk with people—one person to another. At events such as Meet The  Neighbors it is easy to see that we all have a lot in common, we want our children to be safe from harm, we want to learn and grow in the world, have a warm home, and meaningful work and lives. After listening to the Muslim call to pray, members of the Muslim community share what is most beautiful about their religion. "That moment in pray when I connect deeply with my creator," said one man.

Several people in the audience quietly nodded in agreement. Past Meet The Neighbors events have taken place in Sikh temples, Jewish synagogues, Bahia (Muslim) centers. Next month we will visit a Native American center.

In early February there will be another event in Spokane designed to encourage dialogue and learning. As part of the Being Religious Interreligiously Lecture Series and in honor of the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate (an encyclical from the Pope) at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA, Dr. Amy Jill-Levine will be speaking on "Of Pearls and Prodigals: Hearing Jesus' Parables through Jewish Ears."

In an earlier interview with David Neff, Levine said, "In working with Christian congregations and clergy groups, I find an enormous interest in Jesus' Jewish context—how the parables would have sounded in Jewish ears and what the controversy stories suggest about early Jewish practice. I think that if Christians want to take the Incarnation seriously, they should also take seriously where and when and to whom it occurred. Hence the volume has 30 short essays on such topics as the Pharisees, the temple, the ancient synagogue, Jewish parables, Jewish miracle workers, Jewish beliefs in angels and the afterlife, Jewish family life, and so on. "The Jewish Annotated New Testament" also serves to correct unfortunate stereotypes of early Judaism that sometimes find their way into Christian preaching and teaching. It also addresses anti-Jewish teachings such as that all Jews are "Christ killers" or lovers of money or children of the Devil. The annotations provide historical contexts for the passages that give rise to such canards as well as note that the vast majority of Christians read their Bible as a text of love, not hate."

I also recently attended an Interfaith Havdalah presentation. Franciscan friar, Al Mascia and Steve Klaper, a cantor or Jewish musical leader ask Christians to come early to Catholic Vespers and Jews to stay after their Havdalah (Saturday night ending of the Jewish shabbat). "The Interfaith Havdalah is not a mixture of faith traditions; rather we are unique communities praying in each other's company," said long time friends and colleagues, Al and Steve.

As part of the Jewish Havdalah, Steve Klaper leads Mincha (afternoon prayers) and Maariv (evening prayers) with songs like Shalom (Peace) Aleichem (peace be upon you) and V'hi No'am which is taken from the 90th Psalm, noted Klaper, saying the Psalms are something both traditions have in common.

Making the transition from Jewish Havdalah to Catholic Vespers, the leaders ring a Tibetan bowl and encourage participants to take a deep cleansing breath. The candle in front of Friar Al is then lit and they sing "Upon the Lighting of the Lamp at Vespers". Other songs that are part of the Vespers service include "Rejoice, Rejoice" and "Shalom My Friends." Noting the inclusion of the song "Upon Giving Thanks for Incense," Brother Al explained that both the Jewish Havdalah and the Catholic Vespers has an olfactory or smell component.

As they close the service, Brother Al says, "Shavua Tov" wishing Steve a "good week" and Steve responds by wishing Al, "Shabbat Shalom" or a peaceful Sabbath.

"We light candles as an external expression of prayer, said Brother Al ending the event with a quote from the Sufi / Muslim poet, Rumi, "A candle doesn't lose its light by enlightening another candle."

The 13th century Persian poet also said, “Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing there is a field. I'll meet you there." And sometimes it is enough just to pray beside each other because as Rumi said, "When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.” 

A Happy New Year

the Neurotheology of Dopamine


Kimberly Burnham

This year eat, sleep, move your body, meditate, sing, love and if you can do it in community even better.

According to Kenneth Blum et al (2015)  “Finding happiness may not only reside in our genome [genetic material or genes] but may indeed be impacted by positive meditative practices, positive psychology, spiritual acceptance, love of others and self, and taking inventory of ourselves-one day at a time.”


Will the new year be happier for you?

Do you have a meditative practice that also involves movements, like Qigong, Taichi, breathing exercises, yoga, chanting, running, etc.

Do you seek to bring new awareness to your psychological state and how you feel?

Do you practice love of self and others?

In the 2015 article entitled, "The Molecular Neurobiology of Twelve Steps Program & Fellowship: Connecting the Dots for Recovery," in the Journal of Reward Deficit Syndrome 1(1): 46-64, Blum and his colleagues outline each step of the Twelve Step Recovery Program in terms of what is happening in the brain and how dopamine (pleasure and anti-stress brain chemical) is involved.


The researchers note, "A breakdown of this Brain Reward Cascade will lead to the dysregulation and dysfunction of dopamine homeostasis [balance]. Dopamine has been established as the pleasure and antistress molecule. Any reduction in dopamine function can result in a deficiency in reward that leads to substance seeking behavior [addictions]."

While the article focuses on people with significant addictions who are trying to recovery, there are some lessons for all of us in how we seek community and how we look for rewards and support in our lives.


First, let's consider these questions:

How can we use the sensations we experience in the world and our beliefs about our surroundings to feel better and help our communities function better?

How can we bring more awareness to our lives and see the path forward more clearly?

This is really at the core of the neurotheology or the spiritual neuroscience of brain health and dopamine.  Dopamine is a neurotransmitter or a small molecule that is produced in the brain and helps nerve signals travel from one place to another. It also helps us feel good, feel rewarded, and move comfortably.

In a simplistic way, Parkinson's disease, with its tremors, tight muscles, chronic back pain can be described as not enough dopamine, as is also true of some people with significant addictions. At the opposite end of the spectrum, schizophrenia with it hallucinations and breaks with reality can be described as too much dopamine.

Brain Cross Talk and Well Being

The researchers continued, "There is evidence that through the 12-step program and fellowship cross-talk [communication] between the Pre-Frontal Cortex-Cingulate (site of decision-making) and the Nucleus Accumbens (NAc) (site of craving behavior) is developed.

The site of the brain where one experiences feelings of well-being is called the Mesolimbic System and has been termed the reward center. The reward center is where chemical messages, including dopamine (DA), serotonin, enkephalins, and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), work together, to provide a net release of dopamine in the Nucleus Accumbens. "


"Dopamine, as stated earlier, has been associated with pleasure and is the primary neurotransmitter modulating the activation of the reward system of the brain. It has been called the anti-stress molecule and the pleasure molecule. When dopamine is released receptors are stimulated and feelings of well-being and stress reduction increase."

Food, Sex, & Exploration

"Drugs of abuse are considered to be stronger positive reinforcers than natural reinforcers (like food and sex). Natural rewards include satisfaction of physiological drives (like hunger and reproduction and exploratory locomotion), and unnatural rewards are learned and involve satisfaction of acquired drives. Acquired drives involve hedonic sensations and pleasure derived from alcohol, other drugs, as well as, from gambling and other risk-taking behaviors."

When an individual is trying to make up for not enough dopamine they may use drugs and other non-natural rewards.  Think about your practices around food and sex. Do you feel like you have a healthy relationship to both? Are you stimulating the brain reward centers naturally?

Is Chocolate the Answer?

Certainly chocolate and salty grease foods can be satisfying for a short period of time but when was the last time you ate delicious healthy food prepared with love that brought you pleasure and a deep sense of satisfaction?

Move Your Body

"Exploratory locomotion" is the third natural reward. How often do you move as you explore your environment? Many of us drive cars and are moving in space as we see new sights but our bodies are not moving. This research implies that we have a physiological drive to move our bodies and explore new things in our environment. And that our brain rewards this "exploratory locomotion" with a better balance of dopamine and a strong sense of satisfaction.

Other research indicates that consciously long walking or taking long steps can also enhance the balance of dopamine in the body. One of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease (too little dopamine) is the development of a shuffling gait or walking with short steps. One way to counteract this and improve walking, balance, and muscle relaxation is to consciously take long steps.


"The reinforcing effects of drugs of abuse such as cocaine, alcohol, nicotine, food, and music are mediated in the NAc, a site within the ventral striatum. Indeed, it is believed that this structure directs motivated behaviors, elicited by natural rewards or incentive stimuli."

In what ways do you involve music in your life? Do you sing to or listen to music in a community setting? Does performing or listening to music bring you pleasure and satisfaction?


"Other work by Davidson’s group on mindfulness reveals the importance of mediation in terms of brain activation of the reward circuitry. Understanding this could suggest that meditation coupled with enhance spiritual belief may indeed induce dopamine release" and a happier new year.

On Motivation

Let Go of Carrots and Sticks

Why do we do things? What motivates you? Do rewards or punishments motive you, truly? If we want peace and success in this world for all communities and for all people, what do we have to do?

Recent world events have shown how people try to motive others. The problem with many of these carrots and sticks is that they have not been thought through. As long as rewards and punishments are used to motivate people, we will live in a world build on fear and scarcity.

When a terrorist plants a bomb and kills innocent people, what do they hope to accomplish? Will France be motivated to give them land, money, and jobs? Will the United States? I think one of the saddest things in this world is when people destroy other people in an attempt to get what will make them happy. It is literally never successful.

What do you want? Do you think about how you are trying to get it?

Marshall B. Rosenberg developer of "Non-Violent Communication" shares that there is enough for every one of the seven billion people on this planet as long as we don't have to have a specific piece of food, land, and person. There is enough love for each of us as long as we aren't set on that love coming from someone who doesn't love us. There is enough land as long as we are not set on a particular unattainable piece of land.

The movie, "Avatar" featured all the stress and trauma that went into mining for a particular mineral, which the movie producers adeptly named, "Unattainium." There was enough for everyone as long as force and destruction was not used to get energy, housing, and love.

I ask myself what is my "Unattainium?" How can I share more?

The Mormon (LDS) church recently changed their guidelines to bishops and other leaders of congregations to include this wording in revisions to the LDS Handbook,  "A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may not receive a name and a blessing."

And I wonder how is the LDS church trying to bring people to God or make the world a better place with this kind of mandate. What do they want? Do they want to shame or coerce gay men and lesbians into leaving their relationships so that their children will have a chance at a particular piece of heaven? Do they want to punish children and withhold blessings as a way of manipulating the people and world around them? Are they trying to send a message to their membership that anyone who doesn't do what they think is right will be punished and love will be withheld?

If they are trying to motivate people, I think they will have about as much success as the terrorists in France, the United States, and elsewhere in the world.

Dan Pink, in an article entitled, "Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us,"  from said, "the science shows that we care about mastery very, very deeply, and the science shows that we want to be self-directed. And I think that the big takeaway here is that if we start treating people like people and not assuming that they're simply horses, you know, slower, smaller, better smelling horses, if we get past this kind of ideology of carrots [rewards] and sticks [punishment] and look at the science I think we can actually build organizations and work lives that make us better off, but I also think they have the promise to make our world just a little bit better."

Further explaining, Pink puts motivation into an economic model but many of the same principles hold true for any organization, "Pay people enough so that they're not thinking about money and they're thinking about the work. Now once you do that, it turns out there are three factors that the science shows lead to the better performance, not to mention personal satisfaction: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Autonomy is our desire to be self directed, to direct our own lives. Now in many ways traditional notions of management run afoul of that. Management is great if you want compliance, but if you want engagement, self-direction is better."

In your organization, whether it is a church, a business, or a country, do you want compliance or engagement?

Pink continues, "Mastery is our urge to get better at stuff; we like to get better at stuff. This is why people play musical instruments on the weekend. You have all these people who are acting in ways that seem irrational economically; they play musical instruments on weekends -why? It's not going to get them a mate, it's not going to make them any money why are they doing it? Because it's fun, because you get better at it and that's satisfying."

Bombing people or condemning then for not agreeing with you does not motivate them to get better at what you want or pay attention to what you want.

"What you see more and more is a rise of what you might call the purpose motive as if more and more organizations want to have some kind of a transcendent purpose: partly because it makes coming to work better; partly that's because that's the way to get better talent. And what we're seeing now is in some ways, when the profit motive becomes unmoored from the purpose motive bad things happen. Bad things ethically sometimes but also bad things like not good stuff, like crappy products, like lame services, like uninspiring places to work that when the profit motive is paramount, or when it becomes completely unhitched from the purpose motive, it just... people don't do great things," explains Pink.

What is the purpose of your community? Is your community growing in engagement and talent? Are you and those around you doing great things? 

Pattern Recognition at the Parliament of World's Religions


Kimberly Burnham

Bowls of colored sand stood ready on October 15th, 2015. Across the hallway people were preparing vegetarian food. Hanging from the walkway ceilings were flags and banners with quotes on peace, the environment, and faith. A walking mediation labyrinth was being laid down in bright blue tape. Stages were being prepared. The words of spiritual leaders and seekers were about to fill the rooms of the 515,000 square feet Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah.

A pattern was forming. An empty convention center transformed into a sacred space, a microcosm of life on earth. Ten thousand people from every continent and corner of this round earth filled the space with consciousness of the devastation and the challenges the community of humanity face but also hope, love, and a commitment to peace. There were turbans, scarves, yamaks, crowns, masks, robes, crosses, and all manner of symbols as people of faith talked together from their respective vantage points on how best to show gratitude for the blessings of life.

Five days later the bowls of colored sand were transformed in the hands of Tibetan monks into a stunning mandala for some people: a tool for gaining wisdom and compassion. For others a mandala is a geometric piece of art that blesses this world with beauty and gives pause to all of us consumed in a busy life. The pattern emerges only through the work of someone willing to have patience and dedication to express themselves in compassion.

The vegetarian food, prepared by the Langar Sikh community brought nourishment and joy to thousands. It also won the heart and minds of everyone open to seeing the strength and magnificence in the face of the men and women who welcomed each person. "Thank you for coming, Kimberly," a Sikh man said each day I visited. Giving for no other reason than because there was a need to be filled and a desire to be of service, a beautiful pattern emerged from the work of the Sikh community.

Nearby the spires of the LDS (Mormon) temple were recognizable with the gold statue of the angel Moroni on the top. The yellow leaves on the mountain trees, the cool water in the fountain, and decorative pumpkins all converged in a warm and welcoming pattern of the fall in Utah.

The 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions graced us with a glimpse of what this world can look like when people of all faiths listen to the other and see in their eye a neighbor or relative. What do you need? What can I share? What can we do together to take our message of peace into the world?

"It is difficult to change how you read a text but ask a new question: Do I need to read the text in a new way as I find myself in a new situation?" Brandan Robertson noted, "Many communities fear, unnecessarily, that there is a relationship between change in belief and decline." How can we find success in breaking out of a negative pattern and gain an expanded vison of love?

"We have had thousands of years of hatred and slavery. Let's try a little friendship, " said Wande Abimbola, a Yoruba man from Nigeria. In other words, let's change the pattern where it is not working for us.

The Imam Jamal Rahman started his presentation with a Koranic whoooooooooo huuuuuuu, creating with sound a pattern of peace. "Silence is not the absence of sound. It is the absence of the little self," he said. Can you find your pattern of peace in the silence?

"Mother Earth the source of life not a resource," said Chief Arvol Lookinghorse. Take a little and give back some. Breathe in a little and give some back. This is how we can all continue to live in peace and abundance.

"God is Echad," said Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, quoting from the Jewish Shema prayer: God is One. "One is not a person alone but all connected into oneness," she added. Can you find yourself in the pattern of oneness?

Participants at the 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions also had a chance to see films and theatre productions weaving poetry and light into a pattern that can change the world. Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids teaches us that we can break free of the patterns that keep us in poverty, prostitution, or uneducated. But it is easiest and most successful if someone gives us a hand and we take their hand, and work with them.

Referring to her home on the other side of the world in New Zealand, where they are already in tomorrow, Rangimarie Turuki Rose Pere said, "I have come from the future. What do you want to know?" She also shared an image of her land where 6000 hectares of indigenous trees grow. "Children come in with intuition. We only have to love them," she said.

Arnold Thomas taught us, "Relatives, what if this is—heaven all around us? Are we behaving in a manner that our grandchildren seven generations from now will enjoy this earthly heaven?"

In this microcosm that was the 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions we learned that peace and harmony are possible. Today, we begin again to put into action what we learned.

Inside, Seeing From the Fourth Dimension


Kimberly Burnham

If you draw a four sided square on a piece of paper, it is said to be a two dimensional object. It has length and width but not height. Of course a piece of paper does have height, so it is not truly a two dimensional object but for our purposes we will think of it as such.

You can also think of a house with no roof as having walls in only in two dimensions. From above you would be able to see everything inside the house or inside the square on the piece of paper. The contents of the house or square would be vulnerable to the elements and to being seen. You can easily see inside from the third dimension or from above. It is the reason castles were often built on a hill, so that they would not be vulnerable from above. As three dimensional beings we often create protective structures for ourselves, like putting up walls and a roof to protect ourselves from the rain and wind. 

There is a wonderful movie, based on the book on Amazon, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott. "It describes the journeys of A. Square, a mathematician and resident of the two-dimensional Flatland, where women-thin, straight lines-are the lowliest of shapes, and where men may have any number of sides, depending on their social status. Through strange occurrences that bring him into contact with a host of geometric forms, Square has adventures in Spaceland (three dimensions), Lineland (one dimension) and Pointland (no dimensions) and ultimately entertains thoughts of visiting a land of four dimensions—a revolutionary idea for which he is returned to his two-dimensional world. "

Spoiler Alert: The feminist values in the book written in the early 1900's are appalling. The movie, which is much more recent, leaves the misogyny of the book behind.

In Lineland, which a one dimensional space where there are only lines which can move forward or backward but have no concept of width (side to side) or height (above and below). A two dimensional creature like a square visiting from two or three dimensional space can see the middle of the line from the side or from above.

So, from the second dimension you can see inside one dimensional space. From the third dimension you can see inside a two dimensional space, which begs the question, "Where do you need to be to see inside of a three dimensional object?"

Some people consider the fourth dimension to be time. If we can follow light and energy through time, perhaps we can see inside —people, buildings, and other three dimensional objects.

Think about it, for a moment, what is needed in order to see inside another person.  There is the physical —medical technology can use energy (ultrasound, x-rays, infra-red light) to "see" inside a person's body.  Alternative medicine practitioners use their hands to feel these energies and "see" or feel what is going on inside a person but with time we can also get to know someone, if we really paying attention.

Have you ever spent time with a person who you felt could see inside your soul? What was it like to feel their full attention for a period of time? Are you using time to see the world and community of humanity around you?

Think about where you would have to be to be able to see inside the fourth dimension or time. In a way by engaging in the moment, learning from experiences, and remembering the best of the past you are seeing into time. Imagine what the future could be like if we all could see ...

Thriving on the Beauty in Diversity


Kimberly Burnham

There is value in enjoying our differences and similarities. When everyone is the same life is boring. Our brains are not excited if all we can see is one kind of tree or all we can buy is one kind of car, which is the same as everyone else's. Sameness also increases competition, which if you think about it — what is competition ... the differentiation of self as better than another in some way. In order to win you have to be different.

If we value differences then everyone can win in some way. Everyone can be better or best adapted to a particular task. What are you good at? What can you be the best at?

The biological value of diversity is survival. The more different kinds of birds, butterflies, or dinosaurs there are when the environment shifts or changes, the more likely one, two, or more will survive. If everyone is the same and the environment becomes too cold, too hot, too blue, the wrong mix of air, or too much water, none will survive. But if some people, animals, butterflies, or bacteria do better in the cold, hot, blue, or wet environment then they can survive and life continues.

An example of this kind of diversity is Charles Darwin's finches. He studied all the different types of beaks on the finches of the Galapagos Island. Each beak seems designed for a particular kind of food, whether for sucking nectar from a bright purple flower, chewing tiny protein filled seeds, catching mosquitoes on the fly, or picking grubs out from under layers of fractal shaped tree bark. We don't even have to agree on whether these differences evolved or were created in order to enjoy the beauty and practicality of being different. If all the birds are eating exactly the same kind of food, they will run out. There is enough for a greater number of birds in a diverse environment with a variety of birds skilled in finding and eating different things.

You could look at the extinction of dinosaurs and say, they were too similar in their needs for food, temperature, air, etc. Their environment changed and none survived, but some creatures, like horseshoe crabs did survive from a time before the era of dinosaurs. The horseshoe crabs were different from dinosaurs in the ways that mattered in the new environment and they survived. They thrive in coastal water today.

There are lots of ways in which we enjoy diversity. Many people like to see lots of different kinds of butterflies in a ripe summer field. True, some people try to kill the white cabbage butterflies, which eats vegetable crops, but it is the caterpillar that does the most damage. The adult butterfly feeds on nectar and pollinates flowers. Some people don't believe in the giant blue morpho butterfly of Latin America, it is so rare and elusive. Some people even hate butterflies and find them creepy. Other people study certain types of butterflies and ignore the rest. You may have a favorite kind of butterfly but none of this changes the benefit to butterfly survival of having lots of different kinds of butterflies.

In this world we have a diversity of religions and faith traditions. Perhaps there is a survival value in the variety of ways to appreciate life, community, and nature. Perhaps there is some other kind of value in having a diverse and pluralistic society.  Different religions came out of a wide variety of different cultures and environments. It seems odd to think of one as better than another or more valuable than another.  The religions of the world are just different from one another and each appeals to certain people and doesn't appeal to others.

There is a Japanese saying, "There are many ways to get to the top of Mount Fuji." Let us appreciate the beauty, even of what we don't understand or enjoy on other levels. It is simply enough that someone enjoys the beauty of what exists.

The Source of Peace

by Kimberly Burnham

With the 4th of July celebrated in the US, I have been thinking about war and peace and how we separate ourselves from one another and how we build our communities. My contribution to the monthly poetry anthology, The Year of The Poet II from Inner Child Press focused on peace and the first three quotes in this column.

Albert Einstein said, "Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding." Quotes from Brainy Quotes (

And I wonder where in my life am I trying to force things that cannot be force. Where can I share or achieve more understanding?

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."

And I wonder how clearly do I see the bright daybreak of peace. What truth and love am I contributing to peace and brotherhood becoming a reality?

Virginia Woolf said, "You cannot find peace by avoiding life."

And I wondered how can I embrace life more fully.  How do we create a life full of joy and peace?

Jimi Hendrix said, "When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace."

And I wonder what do I love. How can I engage with the power of love more deeply?

Thomas a Kempis said, "First keep peace with yourself, then you can also bring peace to others."

And I wonder how to find my own peace more strongly.  What is peace?

John Lennon said, "Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one."

And I wonder about how to access my dreams. How can we use our dreams to join us together?

Joseph B. Wirthlin said, "You can find peace amidst the storms that threaten you."

And I wonder where do I see the silver linings more readily than the storm. Do we see threats that are not really there?

Francis of Assisi said, "While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart."

And I wonder what is fully in my heart. Do we proclaim peace with our lips and our heart?

Mother Teresa said, "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

And I wonder where and with whom do I belong. Have we forgotten to build our communities and reach out to others?

Henry Miller said, "If there is to be any peace it will come through being, not having."

And I wonder who am I and what do I have that takes too much of my attention? Who are we becoming?

And I wonder ...

Inside and Outside 

Who Are We Exiling?

"Is it true you used to be a Mormon?" He was tall, dark, and handsome with a bright warm smile.

"Yes" I said to the man who was on Benay Lappe's Queer Talmud Retreat with me.

"Me too!"  He said as we explored what we had in common.

"Do you think they will ever change their stance on gay marriage?"

It is a common topic among queer ex-Mormons.

Last year during all the furor over a woman being excommunicated for blogging about the possibility of women getting to hold the priesthood in the Mormon church, my sweet liberal Mormon uncle gave me a hug and said, "If we let women hold the priesthood, will you come back?"

Deep down I feel most of us understand that need to be recognized and included.

I think the Mormon church will open its membership to queer people before women will get the priesthood.  My reasoning is this:  in 1978 men of African descent were able to hold the priesthood in the Mormon church where before they couldn't. Change has happened in the past. It can happen again. This may mean that women will eventually be priesthood holders. That was a less politicized battle and white Mormon families (the majority at the time) could say to themselves, "This issue (blacks and the priesthood) doesn't affect us, doesn't affect our family." They would be wrong of course because when we marginalize any group based on race, gender, culture, religion, etc. we become less vibrant and smaller.

Today, no Mormon family can be completely assured that the "gay" issue doesn't affect them. Some parents throw their gay children out on the street when they come out but most do not.  Most are torn up about how their children are seen by the church. For many people, women and the priesthood is not as heart wrenching an issue as gay marriage. And it is everyone's heart that is getting wrenched.

I had a teacher who called it the "crotch syndrome", one foot is in one camp, the other foot is in the other camp and the two camps are getting farther apart ... something has to give or your pants split. As Rabbi Benay Lappe would say, "You crash."

Gay young people can stay hidden and closeted in the Mormon church but that is the path to suicide—physical or mental. Young people can leave the religion of their childhood, tear up families, support systems, and communities or together we can create something new, taking the best of the old and creating something new that will actually thrive for the next hundred years and beyond.

What will your community or organization feel like in the hands, hearts, and minds of people in 2115? Will there be anyone left who thinks like you do today, values what you value, or views the universe the way you do? Who is on the margins of your community?

In 1990 a prominent sociologist compiled the statistics for the 1990 National Jewish Population survey saying, "There is good news and there is bad news. The good news is Judaism will exist in a hundred years. The bad news is it will be unrecognizable to us."

Rabbi Benay Lappe, founder of Svara, a radically queer yeshiva told this story ( ) and continued by saying, "What I would like to share with you today is why this one queer Jew doesn't think an unrecognizable Judaism is particularly bad news."

"Every religion comes into being to create meaning, and meaning comes by way of a "master story," like Torah. But every master story will eventually...crash," according to Rabbi Benay Lappe. She lays out a roadmap for navigating the current "crash" in Jewish life, arguing that it is those on the margins who will be the leaders of the next Jewish future, and outlines the curriculum that will equip them to be "players."

When I heard Rabbi Lappe speak at a weeklong Talmud (Jewish learning) retreat, I started to think about the different communities I have been a part of and why I have deepened my connected to some and walked away from others.

Ultimately, we are each a member of the human race but then we further divide ourselves into like minded communities. We do it by differentiating and comparing our beliefs and identity to others. It is a natural thing to seek out people like ourselves. We often feel more comfortable with people like ourselves, whatever that defining characteristic may be. But in forming communities of like minded people we also marginalize or exclude others who we feel don't fit in our community.

And who gets to decide? Who chooses whether one person is a valued or marginalized member of your community? Do people get to self-define and include or exclude themselves based on where they want to be? What community characteristics can be defined? Can gender or race be self-defined in your community as easily as what genre of books are engaging or religious affiliation?

How long will it be before there are fewer people within your community than the number of people who say, "Yes, I used to be a part of that community but I left?"

Have you considered whether your community is marginalizing the very person who will find the path for your community or organization to thrive and grow into the next 100 years?

Connection to the Earth

Two years ago I was bicycling through Spokane, Washington on a 3000 mile Cross-USA trip from Seattle to Washington, DC. In the last two years I moved across the country from Connecticut to Washington state and this spring just moved into a new house with trees and land for a large garden.

Sponsored by Hazon which means vision in Hebrew, the bicycle adventure connected me to the land, this land of my birth and experience has taught me so much about myself, my friends and the United States. I found community with people who otherwise would not have spun in the same circles as I did. I noticed our similarities and the places we are connected and I learned from our differences.

Now I wake up to the sound of quail running in the tall grass, baby birds just learning to fly and the sound of children's bare feet on the newly carpeted stairs. I am part of a family, a community, a country and the earth.


Earth Teach Me

"Earth teach me to forget myself

as melted snow forgets its life.

Earth teach me resignation as the leaves

which die in the fall.


Earth teach me courage as the tree

which stands all alone.


Earth teach me regeneration as the seed

which rises in the spring."

- William Alexander



I Am Learning

I am learning patience

from a garden that takes time to build and grow.


I am learning compassion from seeing the frustration of children

too small yet to do all they want to do.


I am learning to better explain my needs and desires

from setting up a house and merging our things.


I am learning to heal the land

with cast offs like coffee grounds and banana peels.


I am creating from dry earth where no worms yet burrow

a lush vegetable filled garden.


I am learning to appreciate and the sunshine and the rain

from the colors and hues of the setting sun as I stand on my porch.


I hope you are learning great and wise things

from the land and your community this summer.




Kimberly Burnham



Words shared can cause joy and pain, delight and laughter, misery and despair and ...


I wrote once to Reader's Digest. Asking to be published, I submitted my brief stories—100 words exactly crafted to tell how I am. "You are chosen", they said, "to take the next step." Post words on a wall. Use language to spread colors into life. See what your neighbors, tall and small, says. Wear your blood red beating heart on your sleeve and so I flirted with life on a big stage. Words came. Someone else chosen and I alone with my thoughts.




Only a little intimidated, I winked at her across the campground. I was, after all, bicycling 3000 US miles. She was riding only the first week. I wasn't really flirting. I was in a new realm, a little off balance. It changes you, the challenge of riding 70 miles a day, waking up in new places every morning, feeling sunlight on your face and the wind sometimes blowing straight in to your face.


It's hard to get your bearings when you are always moving towards the horizon. And sometimes you do that magically unpredictable thing that turns out amazing.


Rich Colorful Vision


With a 28 year-old photographer's eye, I scanned magazines in the ophthalmologist's waiting room. Wasn't good news when he finally saw me. "You need to consider what your life will be like if you are blind." A stark white coat, impressive degrees on the wall, "it is genetic, so there is nothing you can do," he darkened my life.


I went to massage school, a profession you can do blind, if you have to. There I found acupressure, craniosacral therapy, nutrition, matrix energetics, reiki and the keys to the kingdom of better eyesight at 40 than 28.


Peruvian Gatekeepers


As if to say, "why are you here?', Peruvian ibises squawk. The color of Andean snow, they fly as I respond, "the universe conspired, bringing me to this Star Gate near Lake Titicaca. I am here, feeling a deep peace, a rightness with the world."


After a mile pilgrimage across farmland, my guide, Bruno motioned to channels carve, an outline in granite. So old, no knows by whom but legend goes: in flight from Spanish conquistadors, an Incan priest took precious artwork, walked through stone and up to the Pleiades', opening a channel from the stars to me. 


12 Million Plus Great Horned Owl


Her beautiful silk kimono spreads the color of sunset. I remember. But even a Japanese bride wouldn't draw this Tokyo crowd. What has summoned photographers with 300 mm lenses stretched out like tree trunks. Following their eyes up a massive tree stands against the densely populated skyline. A great horned owl peaks out.


Waiting for him to fly, one photographer peers through an identical camera body to my Canon. I beg in Japanese, "just for a moment, lend me your lens." Capturing a wise owl so adaptable he can live alongside 12 million people.


Montana Proud Cross-USA Bicyclist


At 55, I bicycled 84 miles into Forsyth on July 4th. "Freedom", said a grain farmer asked about life in Montana. "We know everyone", said three small town women power walking.


A six year old, I realized "Gringo" was not good in Bogota. I barely knew Vietnam's location, as a teenager when someone spit on me in Europe. At 22, I stayed inside my Tokyo apartment on Hiroshima day.


Bicycling Seattle to DC, seeing beauty, talking to people, feeling sunlight on my face, hearing birds sing, I am a proud American for the first time, ever.


Life Is Uncertain Live Your Passion


Egyptian beachfront shopkeepers see me achieve my bucket list #57: Red Sea SCUBA diving. The hotel where I dreamed last night is three armed check points away from the Blue Hole near Dahab.  Warm water, clear as it laps the Sinai desert, containing brightly colored yet poisonous lionfish and deadly camouflaged stonefish. Exhilarating. Jacque Cousteau called it, "Earth's most beautiful place."


Loved Red Sea diving. It's the week before I work in Tel Aviv, helping people heal. The clinic door opens. Someone reports, "A bombing near home in NYC." It is September 11th, 2001.


Walnut Trees


Planted a walnut tree today in back of my new house with her and the kids—an act of faith in nuts which will not come for five years. Uncertainty reigns. Will I know the nutty crunch, seeds grown with tough shells and soft spongy coats worn to protect yet falling away in the fertile earth, growing into seedlings, then in the blink of an eye or 30 years a 75 foot tree continues reaching for sunlight, growing to the outer limits of what is possible with abundant resources, feeling gratitude for love, and the willingness of trust.

Finding the Faces of My Community

The face conveys evolutionarily significant information. When I look into your face do I see a predator or prey, a friend or enemy, are you trustworthy or not, a part of my community or an "other", a potential partner or friend? Beyond helping me to survive, will you help me create and love more deeply?


Much of this information gathering comes from my eyes and from what I see in your face. I feel your movements deep in my mirror neurons reflecting back how it feels to smile, laugh, cry or yell. My eyes are very important in how I see you and the perspective I take on people's emotions, intentions and creative processes.


I wonder sometimes what is reflected in my face as I peer into the faces of those around me or as I walk by without looking. What does it say about me, about my connection to my community if I don't look into your face?


Springtime bring flowers like the white and yellow narcissus, named perhaps for the Greek word for intoxicated (narcotic) and the mythical Narcissus, who seeing his face, falls in love with his own reflection in a pond. Glassy lake surfaces, internal and outer mirrors, window glass with the sun reflecting off our faces, a shiny piece of metal, someone's glasses—these are all way we can see our own face or a reflection of what others see.


What do other people see when they look into my face? Sometimes they smile with love and sometimes their brows furrow with concern or compassion. Sometimes their eyes light up in joyful recognition or surprised confusion. Who do you see when you look into my face? Look and see me. Facing the world is a delightful process with shifts and changes like a kaleidoscope of spinning jewels and colors as I turn my attention from one face to another. Face me as I face you. Who are you saving your face for?


Gary Zukav put it this way, "The coming and going of the seasons give us more than the spring times, summers, autumns, and winters of our lives. It reflects the coming and going of the circumstances of our lives like the glassy surface of a pond that shows our faces radiant with joy or contorted with pain."


What is reflected in the face of this community of humanity, which shines out impacting the creativity and growth in your life?


Your brain is not the same as my brain. The way I see the color red may be completely different from the way you see that same shiny deep red light reflecting from a ripe apple. We have agreed to call a certain wave length of light: RED but we can't know if we see it the same. It is unlikely that I recognize faces in the same way you do. My favorite tree, a tall blue spruce or a weeping wisteria in full bloom may not be your favorite kind of plant. You might be an extrovert. I am an introvert. We each see the world in different ways. Different things make us happy. We each learn and contribute differently.


There is neurodiversity in our community of humanity. With the idea of neurodiversity we propose that a variety of ways or diverse approaches to learning, functioning and accomplishments within a community is a good thing and are the result of normal variations in brain function. Businesses are being encourage to hire a neurodiverse staff, including not only people who see, hear and communicate in more common or typical ways but also those with a diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome, deafness, anxiety or schizophrenia. Neurodiversity is the idea that we should focus on what is positive, on skills and abilities rather than what is in some peoples' view broken. There are T-shirts now that say, "Can't Fix What Is Not Broken."


There is a TV series called Alphas that follows a team of people who have uncommon abilities, almost like super powers. One man is able to perceive radio waves, interpret and follow them through the air. He is also autistic. Is he disabled? One of the women has synesthesia, a rare but real ability to taste, hear or smell colors. In the show she has the ability to hear conversations that are happening far far away or sense very faint smells on a gun, for example that was used in a crime. Historically we think of these conditions as abnormal or aberrant but who decides what is normal.


I once worked with a little boy who could do multiplication equations like 2592 times 3094 in his head. He would rattle off the answer and look at me as I used complementary medicine approaches like Craniosacral therapy or Matrix Energetics to help him function better in the world. If I didn't respond, he would say, "It is correct you know!" I would look at the mother of this six year old with a diagnosis of Cornelia de Lange syndrome, who couldn't feed himself because of a lack of hand-eye or hand-mouth coordination and say, "I know. No one here is going to dispute that." He was always right. His brain worked differently from mine. I can feel things, like rhythms and vibrations with my hands that most people can't but my spelling ability is horrible. Am I disabled?


What should we focus on in our global community? Should we teach people or give them the opportunity to learn in ways that work for them and then offer them ways to contribute to society that fit the way their brain works? Should we only employ or reward people with common abilities?


Some people in the autism community and the deaf community have stopped looking for a cure because they don't see the way they perceive the world as problematic. Who gets to say whether it is or it isn't? Working in the complementary medicine system as I do, I never presume to tell people what they should want to be able to do. I just use my hands, coaching and skills to help them achieve their goals whether it is to decrease their tremors, have more brain clarity, or something completely different.


When I worked at a large multidisciplinary clinic someone once wrote on their goal sheet: 1. Eliminate my back pain; 2. Have a bigger house; 3. Improve my relationship with my son; 4. Sleep deeper ... At the time I was most comfortable with helping people eliminate back pain and get better sleep but this list of goals made me stop and think about how our physical health influences how our body feels which in turn influences our ability to make money and communicate in relationships. This person didn't need me to change the way they look at the world. They needed me to help them feel and function better so they could find the way that they were going to have less pain, more money and communicate better. It was not for me to define what is "better", only to help coach them or guide them in finding their way.


What is your unique way of seeing and engaging in the world? How can I help you? How can you help me?

Chronic Pain

From An Alternative Medicine Perspective

Pain abounds in our community, but so too does joy and success and creative solutions.


The pain in a child's face, tears streaming after a fall on the grassy hill or the scratch of a tree branch.

The pain of loss with the death of an uncle.

The pain of sore muscles after a 100 mile bicycle ride.

The pain of a chronically injured shoulder stiff in the morning.

The pain of rejection of a friend shaming you in public.


What to do about all the pain?


Noticing someone else's pain, reaching out to them and doing what we can to alleviate the pain is a sign of brain health. It can be scary to see someone in pain. I might wonder if their pain is contagious. Will I have pain if I help them? Seeing someone in pain can also make me wonder about my own fragility and vulnerability to pain. But reaching out with caring and compassion strengthens the connections in my brain, improves my clarity and cognitive function.


Medical research also indicates that from a brain perspective and perceptual point of view there is very little difference between social emotional pain and physical pain. The children's taunt, "sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me!" is simply not true.


So what can I do with my skills in complementary and alternative medicine to help my community find the creative solutions? What does Traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupressure, CranioSacral Therapy, Matrix Energetics or Reiki have to say about pain and all the ways to alleviate it?


Color Yourself Comfortable


Traditional Chinese Medicine

shines the way

catching bits of colored light

striking eyeballs and skin

penetrating inward to the emotional body

shifting physical and emotional pain


Yellow the color of the stomach and spleen

fuels immune and detoxification

on the clock at work

exchanging nutrients for toxins


The color of bile

rises and soothes anger

green the nourishing light of a cool forest


Heart beat red

colors of blood flow

rich in iron

nutrients digested in the small intestine


A large white breath

drawing in the color of snow

assuaging the grief of loss

with oxygen on the path to muscles

breathe in plus a long breath out

find that sweet spot of comfort


Blue flows the water elements

the kidney deciding what will stay

and what goes forward and out

draining fear from life

leaving in its place joy and comfort



Acupressure Hands Healing Pain


Three points times two

improving pain conditions

soothing the autonomic nervous system


In the neck

GB 21, SI 14 and SI 15,

In the arms

LI 4, LI 10 and LI 11


After acupressure

she said it feels better

my neck moves easier

the muscles soft and supple

racing heart slowing

to a calm even beat


- Research from Matsubara, T., Y. C. Arai, et al. (2011). "Comparative effects of acupressure at local and distal acupuncture points on pain conditions and autonomic function in females with chronic neck pain." Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2011."



Subatomic Light Visualization: Where Exactly is the Pain?


This exercise and visualization can be used for any part of the body. Here we focus on the neck and shoulders.


1. Take a couple of deep breaths and close your eyes. Rest the eyelids and turn vision and intuition inward.


2. Start to focus on the neck and shoulders. Make sure your hands and arms are in a relaxed position. Let your elbows and shoulders relax. Feel your head sitting comfortably on top of the neck with your spine aligned. Be loose and supportive.


3. Name the structures as you relax them. Relax your right shoulder, elbow, wrist and fingers. Focus on the left shoulder. How does it feel different as you relax the muscles in both shoulders?


4. Feel the fabric of the clothing on your shoulders. Is it easier to notice the top of the shoulder or the upper arm where the fabric meets the skin? Feel the clothing or fabric or air as it meets your skin throughout your body.


5. Now focus on a deeper layer. Which side is more comfortable? Can you visualize and feel the muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, bones, blood vessels, nerve fibers and all the tissues that make up your shoulders, neck and throat.


6. Move inward to a smaller layer - the cellular level. Notice the difference in the color of muscle cells and red blood cells. Feel the density and flexibility in the bone cells compared with the tendon cells.


7. Then go even deeper. Embrace life inside the cells, each cell as it listens.Notice the activity of the cell walls pulsing positive and negative. What are the tiny organelles within the cells doing. Here lie the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cells and the genetic material. Feel the movement as the cells of the right shoulder breathes - taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide. Is there a sense of comfort at this level?


8. Then deeper still into the realm of atoms. Notice the carbon atoms with electrons spinning around neutrons and protons. Feel the space at the atomic level with a stable core around which electrons circle, balanced in their orbits. Does the front of the neck feel different from the back of the neck at this level? Is there comfort at the atomic vibration?


9. Then telescope into the weird and wacky realm of quantum physics, quarks and bits where electrons pop in and out of existence, where nothing is real and everything is vital. Feel the flow in your shoulders as electrons pop in and out of existence, spinning free in space, where they have as much space as they want., where photons and bits of light shine out through the neck and shoulders with warmth, compassion and creativity.


10. Now look around this tiny universe inside your shoulder at the cells and tissues that make up the muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, bones, blood vessels, nerve fibers and all the tissues that create the reality of your shoulders, neck and throat.


11. Notice again the feeling of the fabric of your clothing on your skin. Does the temperature feel different where there is a sweater or a shirt or bare skin touching the air?


12. Breathe in some of that air and expand your senses out into the room as you feel the air in the room. Is it still or moving? What do you hear around you? And finally when you are ready open your eyes and notice all the things that have changed in you and in your surroundings.


Visualizing yourself with an expanded sense of ease. Meditating on the ways to bring success and comfort to all those in your community of humanity as you reach out to yourself and others with compassion.


Brain Solids

Sometimes we have to shift dimensions to see the connections and the tiny tendrils that reach across the walls and canyons. My kitchen table, for example, feels solid, a light blond wood that gives a deep solid tone when my knuckles rap on it. My hands feel solid, too. And I imagine this is what is real, the solid things in my life.


In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we talk about solid organs and hollow organs. The water elements, Kidney and Bladder, form a Ying and Yang pairing, the solid kidneys contrasting the hollow bladder but both are water elements associated with the color of deep lakes and cloudless skys and with creativity. While the kidneys and bladder are said to be the seat of the emotion fear, water is the most powerful element. It can move around any obstacle in its path without losing its essential nature. Water can, in time, dissolve the hardest mountain.


Is my hand really as solid as it seems? Is my body or my life as solid as it seems?


My hand as it pounds the table, solidly filled with carbon, oxygen, iron, and hydrogen. Molecules of water flowing through my veins, building walls full of carbon, iron, potassium, calcium, and more.

                                                                       continued  . . . .

In that microscopic dimension I am a mass of vibrating particles, it can be hard to say where my hand ends and where the air begins.  Does this molecule of carbon or calcium belong to my hand, the air or the table?  When I reach my hand out to you, touching your skin, what is you and what is me?


What Is?


It is here where electrons pop in and out of existence, that I am really connected to everything and nothing is real. One molecule is not more important than another, yet each one is vital to the continued existence of this world as we know it to be. It seems solid as we bump up against our reality.


The other day, I cycled past a turtle. I had to stop to look closely since I could only see the shell; the body was all pulled in and tucked away. A dog was farther down the trail and I wondered: where does the turtle's head begin? Where does the sniffing nose of chocolate Labrador retriever end? And if we don't even know where it all begins and ends, then why are we so afraid of the solid things in our life? We are all solid and vital and vibrating at such a rate as to make it impossible to distinguish at the edges when I end and you begin.

Aisles in the Brain


Millions of threads

wandering in and out

of time through

different dimensions

venturing forth weaving

unaware of the beauty

embedded in

the fabric of connections


My life

reaching across

the aisle shaking

hands with someone

not so different

still eyes on the aisle

the wall, the canyon

sometimes missing the bridge


Just a thread

the barest hint of substance

manifests, yes

manifesting physicality

a root from a seedling

water cracking open

seed matter reorganizing

a tiny tendril ventures forth

Across the path

a turtle wanders

balling up

pulling it all in

at the sound of a dog barking

immobilized by vibrations

words flowing across the network

learning, interpreting

curious sniffing


Feeling for

unknown hostility

of heat

the warmth of a cozy fire

a wintery aisle


life and food and water

the love of a child

nurturing the seed

the turtle and the dog


Till growing tall

deeply rooted

a thick rope bridge

cradles the aisle

I reach across

enjoying the risks

no safety inside the shell

holding safe

this community of humanity



Kimberly Burnham

The cold, solitary and hibernation energies of winter can be warmed by community, acceptance and change as once more we move toward spring and new life. What NEW life will you drink into your core? What energies will you convert in the joy within the balance of your life?


Are you a convert? Do you seek converts to your cause? Conversion is defined in many ways. One way is the act or process of changing from one form to another or from one state to another or from one religion to another.


Make Something Useful


Food is converted into energy and the building blocks for a healthy body. The state of the food is changed in the conversion process. The food is broken down into molecules that can then be used in different ways. We call this conversion process—digestion. The food is digested or broken down into its essence. Your body builds these component parts into something new.


Religions and political parties talk about conversion and converts. They often actively look for converts. We look for people who agree with our view of the world. Sometimes we try to convince them that our view is the only correct or true way to feel about life.


But there are very few absolute truths and there are many ways of seeing reality. Then again perhaps you don't agree with me on this issue. Perhaps this statement is not true in your world. I can live with that.


Dion Fortune, a witch, defined magic as the art of changing consciousness at will. Perhaps a convert, who changes their way of seeing the world with consciousness, is magic. Or maybe the magic is in celebrating and respecting each person as they see the world in their own unique way.


Is there room in this world for the intellectual and heart-based exploration that leads to finding what is it that truly resonates with one's mind, body, and spirit? What are your views? Is your community made up of like-minded people? Do you embrace diversity and respect what others believe about the world? Do you have a clear sense of what you believe is true while still holding truth loosely enough that others can believe differently?


Mormonism Flowing Into Judaism


I grew up Mormon. I spent summers in Utah on my cousin's farm, while I lived with my international businessman father and artist mother in various countries. In every new place, I had a built-in community of like minded people, until I changed. I came out and created a life incompatible with Mormonism. I set off to find a new community full of accepting people. I was not looking to convert but after 14 years of living a Jewish life, I made it official this summer. Over the years after leaving the Mormon church and becoming Jewish, my view of the world and life has changed significantly. A lot of the changes came because of community and how I felt in one community compared to another. For me it is also about who I am. I stopped liking who I was as a Mormon and felt better about who I am as a Jew. It is ultimately a very personal choice and I have no stake in what other people chose as long as I get a choice in my life.



Conversion can also be defined as the adaptation of a building for a new purpose—for example, the conversion of a house into apartments. It is the act of changing something that may not be useful any more into something that is useful or more function or more of what is needed today. What is the purpose of your life? Has it changed over the years?


Composting is also a kind of conversion. Sticky waste products, moldy foods, freshly cut green grass, and dead brown leaves are piled up together and bacteria, bugs and worms convert it into dirt from which new plants and food can grow. Something that was not useful or functional is repurposed. Picnic tables can be made from juice boxes. Something that we might throw away can be converted into a place in the shade where we can eat or play cards or laugh with old friends.


The Order of Life


From the field of logic comes this definition of conversion: the transposition of the subject and predicate of a proposition according to certain rules to form a new proposition by inference. It is about changing the order of words or the relationship of the words that brings something new.


Even American football gets into conversion defining with "the act of scoring an extra point or points after having scored a touchdown." Conversion is a chance to win or to score extra points, a bonus if you will. What are you converting into a positive attitude in your life?


There is a famous math problem. There are three doors. You are asked to choose one door. Once your choice is made you are shown what is behind one of the two doors you didn't choose. It is counterintuitive if you can you should change your choice. You should change because that increases your chance of winning. With A, B and C as choices you have a one in three chance of getting the car or whatever prize is behind one of the doors. Say you chose A and then are shown that there is nothing behind B and offered a chance to choose again? You should choose C because now you have a one in two chance of winning whereas before when you choose A you only had a one in three chance of winning. Changing your choices or converting to a new or different way of thinking can sometimes be a good thing. New information and experience can inform new choices or new ways of living. New ideas can change how you feel and the kind of world view you resonate with.


Another synonym for conversion is metamorphosis. Imagine that your current beliefs about the world are a black and orange caterpillar. What kind of change would you see with the wings of a monarch? What new information or experiences would it take for you to morph into the king of your castle or the master of your life? What would it take to be okay with everyone in this community of humanity having the same opportunity to live life believing what we want to believe about the world around us?


Adapt Now!

Attachment Disorders and What Do I Need?

Every month, pick up each thing in your house.  Hold it. Feel it. Notice the texture, the color, the softness and ask yourself, "Does this bring me JOY?" This is an adapted exercise from Suze Orman, a well known financial advisor and TV personality. Paying attention to what we are attached to can be good for the wallet and for the heart.


A Move


In the process of moving last year, I thought a lot about stuff. What to move? What to take? Where to put it between here and there? Where there should be? What I can live without? What do I need to live? What is important?


The last year has been an interesting journey in the relationship to my stuff and attachment to physical location. My dad says, "never pack more than you can carry yourself for a mile."


June 2013 started with a flight from West Hartford, CT to Seattle, Washington. What did I need to take for a nine week bicycle journey across the country? What could I take on the plane? Fortunately, I took Southwest so I was allowed two free bags—two big duffel bags. My bicycle flew by itself on Bike Flights and was waiting when I arrived in Seattle.




Did I have too much stuff for a bicycle ride across the country? Yes. Did I have everything I needed? No. I found it impossible to plan for every need. I could have bicycled 3000 miles with only three cycling jerseys instead of four but I really could have used an extra pair of comfortable biking shorts. I could have used a soft pillow instead of a pillow case stuffed with clothes. Experience teaches us how to pack and what we really need to navigate life. Sometimes that experience comes in handy because we repeat a part of the journey or walk a similar path. Sometimes we just have the experience and can share it, so others on a similar journey can pack better. On what parts of your journey have you learned something worth sharing? How are you sharing your wisdom?


The most surprising thing I learned is that I can, if needed, run my life from my iPhone, including write blog posts, post pictures on LiveMapp and Pinterest, create Facebook and Google Plus posts, make LinkedIn business connections, do radio interviews about life on the road, have conversations with friends back home, email clients, catching up on world news, and do internet searches for information about the coming weather and places of interest along the way. I can do it all without a computer or any other electronic device. I just need my phone.

Everything I needed for camping at night could fit in one large duffel and everything I needed for daytime clothing and electronics could fit in another duffel. Of course, I counted on access to laundry a couple of times a week and a wall outlet for charging my phone every day. A bicycle trip is a study in what do you really need? What are the connection you really need in your life? What is important beyond the stuff? You learn a lot spending nine weeks on a bicycle with time to think, to plan, to challenge yourself to do something great, and most of all to breathe in all the joy of life. I had to make sure I had enough to keep warm and enough layers to take off to stay cool, rain gear, back up batteries—it is challenging to plan for all the different situations that arise in life.


A few months after bicycling from Seattle to Washington, DC and then returning home to West Hartford, CT, I decided to leave the East coast and I set out on another journey. Deciding what to put in my car for the drive out to my parent's place in Utah was challenging. The rest of my stuff would go into a POD—a big box. I didn't know how long it would wait for me to decide where I would land so I had to figure out what would I really need to live my life for the next few months.




And like much of life, at least my life, the time my stuff sat in the POD was much longer than I expected. I didn't predict my trajectory very well. I didn't have quite enough experience to know that I would spend five months at my parent's place in Utah with only what I drove across in my Honda Accord.


Were there things I wished I had put in the car for easy access? Yes. Did I  do okay without buying much to replace stuff in the storage container? Yes. Did I look forward, once I decided,  to holding, arranging and playing with my stuff in Spokane, Washington, where I am landed? Yes, hopefully for a long, long time. But I have learned what I really need and what I can do fine without. I understand my needs better. I have grown in my ability to navigate the journey.


The Root of Tantrums


"When we hear the other person's feelings and needs, we recognize our common humanity," says Marshall Rosenberg, developer of Non-Violent Communication. He goes on to say, "At the root of every tantrum and power struggle are unmet needs."


What do you really need?

Playing Back A Colorful Life

With Lots of Moving Pieces

Last week I participated in a Playback Theatre workshop or playshop as we called it. Penny Clayton from the Centre for Playback Theatre taught this amazingly rich beautiful class in Seattle about five hours drive from my home in Spokane, Washington.


One of the values of Playback Theatre is to create a space where everyone feels respected and listened to as they tell their story. Like an ideal world, the class was a microcosm of people who were similar and different in many ways from me. I listened to them. I watched them and I told my story, too.


Sometimes, I listened and then retold the story or played it back using only fabric. Telling the story I had heard through the colors I chose, by the way I moved the fabric through the air, by the shape I created with gauzy ribbons of color. I learned that a piece of fabric can be imbued with life and become a character, an emotion or theme in the story. Once the fabric takes on a role, it must be treated with the respect due the storyteller, that person brave enough to share a part of themselves with a room full of strangers or sometimes even harder a room full of friends or colleagues.


Sometimes, I listened as I eyed the musician's table replete with still instruments for me to select and bring to life. There were so many different ones to use to illustrate with robust sounds the emotions contained in the words of the teller's story. You can try this now. Think of an experience. What instrument would you use to tell the story if all you could use was one instrument—not your words, not your body, and not your facial expressions? What would be the beat that told your story if you could only use a drum or tambourine? I recently heard the Spokane Symphony play Peter and the Wolf, a musical story by Sergei Prokofiev, where each character—Peter, the duck, the wolf, the birds and other animals are all portrayed with a specific instrument. When that character is in the story their instrument is played. The story of how the characters interact and weave in and out of the story becomes a lively and expressive symphony of sound. I listened one evening in the park surrounded by my Spokane community.


Sometimes in the class I listened for the over arching theme. What was the teller really saying? What was the moment in the story when everything changed—the royal moment? What title would I give this story, if asked? I tried to find the strongest feeling that the teller felt as they spoke to me or as they gently gave their story over into my hands? What did I feel as I heard the story? How had the experience touched the teller and those around him?


With only my body and mouth, what sound and movement could I make that in a short moment brings to life the retelling of the teller's story? What had I seen in her body or hands as she told the story? What could I give back to her that would say, "I hear you. I understand or am trying to understand you."

                                                                    continued . . . .

continued . . . .


I listened for a pair of emotions? Did the teller express sadness and joy—both parts of the same experience? Were they nervous and excited to be launching on a new venture? How did they feel about the dogs at the house where they were staying? I listened for those mixed emotions with which we face life. It is not always a smooth and easy ride, but it is also not all an uphill battle. I am reminded of the quote attributed to Plato, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." But it is not always a hard battle. Sometimes there are moments of exquisite joy and love and abundance. Most often there is some of both.


I listened to the sounds my fellow actors made. I watched out of the corner of my eyes the movements they choose to retell the story, to convey what they heard as we shared the stage. And I thought about what I could add so the teller of the tale would know they were heard and respected. Did they feel respected simply for living life, sharing an experience, taking a moment to look inward at what their life means to them and what it means in a global context? In the back of my mind I thought about when and how we would end the retelling of this story. How would the sounds and movements end? What would the fluid sculpture look like as we, each of the actors, came together on the stage? I wondered, "would the teller see beauty in the sculpture that our bodies made at the end? Would they see their story and some greater meaning of the experience from a new perspective? I tried to find my way, my part of the whole story.


In the polarity walk, I moved and made a sound, that organically rose from me in response to the exercise as I walked across the room. I also listened and watched as the other person—my friend and colleague—walked towards me in a way that rose organically from them. Often times funny, sometimes tragically we walked towards each other, making a sound and moving forward. At that meeting point where we came into contact with each other, where we came into relationship with each other, I took on their way of walking. We each took on the sounds that rose from the other and shed our own movements and sounds. We finished walking across the room in the other's shoes, in their way, trying to feel what they feel, showing how well we listened and saw them.


I hope that everyone in the room felt as seen and heard as I did for we are all part of a community now. The community that grew out of listening and respecting is now our community and part of a larger Playback Theatre community and global environment.

Kind Possession Now

Possession! What do you possess? What are your prized possessions? What have you worked hard for or perhaps inherited?


There is a beautiful coffee table book entitled, Material World: A Global Family Portrait (1995) by Peter Menzel, Charles C. Mann, Paul Kennedy and a host of amazing photographers. It is a graphic and statistical snapshot of families worldwide. Families are photographed in front of their homes with all of their possessions outside—furniture, cars, pots and pans, yes, everything. In each photograph, they hold or stand surrounding their most prized possession. What that item is varies dramatically from one country to the next. Each family is a statistically average family for that country—an average number of children, average income, average size of home. It is a remarkable book about what we as part of this community of humanity possess and what we place value on.




Sometimes I look around my apartment and think about what my possessions would look like out in front of my home, what would be my most prized possession and what is irreplaceable for me. I have a photograph on my bulletin board of a scuba diving trip in Dahab, Egypt. I am smiling. My hair is slicked back and I am loaded up with scuba gear ready for my second dive of the day. I am surrounded by newly found friends. We don't know that it is just a few days before September 11, 2001 when I will be in Tel Aviv, Israel working. I have a memory and a photograph of a time in my life when I am vibrantly alive and fearless in my travels around the world. Life and love and vitality course through my veins—irreplaceable life.


Marshall Rosenberg, developer of the field of Non-Violent Communication said, "It's harder to empathize with those who appear to possess more power, status, or resources." But is it simply the possession that makes the difference or rather is it our attitude and the way we possess power, status and resources? Is it really about the inequity when we compare ourselves with those around us?


Our Lives


Are our lives better if we are grateful for what we have?


Are our lives better if we are happy when those around us succeed in what they are trying to do or have?


Are out lives better if we help others gain what they need?

Our Needs


Marshall Rosenberg, who has participated in peace negations in the Middle East and at home in family conflicts said, "I would like to suggest that when our heads are filled with judgments and analyses that others are bad, greedy, irresponsible, lying, cheating, polluting the environment, valuing profit more than life, or behaving in other ways they shouldn't, very few of them will be interested in our needs. If we want to protect the environment, and we go to a corporate executive with the attitude, "You know, you are really a killer of the planet, you have no right to abuse the land in this way," we have severely impaired our chances of getting our needs met. It is a rare human being who can maintain focus on our needs when we are expressing them through images of their wrongness."


How are you trying to get your needs met? Does someone else have to lose for you to have what you need? Does someone else have to be wrong or bad for you to have what you want? The land, the money, the water, the safety, the love—we all have basic needs we are trying to meet. Is it only the love of a certain person that will suffice in meeting your need for love? What if your love is unrequited? Is it only a specific piece of land that will suffice in meeting your need for shelter? Who are you looking out for and who looks out for you?


If Not Now


The famous Jewish religious leader, Hillel, born over 2000 years ago in Babylon in 110 BCE said, "If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?" His words, "If Not Now?" have sparked a movement within the Jewish community which is looking at the means being applied to the peace process in Israel and Palestine. Jews are considering what is justified in the name of creating peace and safety. Is there a line that can't be crossed even if your own life, your family, your land and possessions are in jeopardy?


Whether we are seeking inner peace, peaceful families or peace between communities, there are certain attitudes and processes that don't move the peace process forward. The line between what we will do and won't do is different for each of us but I believe we each have a line over which we would not step to defend even our own lives. As part of a family, a community and a global village, it is worth it for each of us to look at and imagine where that line is for us. We can each ask ourselves, "What is worthwhile? What means everything to me? Do I want peace and love more than anything else?


Today I want to close with a quote attributed to Plato, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Future Time and Space Unknown

John F. Kennedy said . . .

"Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet.

We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal."

The Space


We are a community. We share this earth. Think for a moment of all the people with whom you share a relatively small space—a house, a city, a country, a world. We are linked through space as we bump up against our own reality—the space that contains our lives. Very few of us ever leave this planet to roam in space but we each have space that we share with others, right now.


Right now, I am sitting in a house, shared with, sometimes, eight other people—adults, children, even a couple of dogs, even though they are not "allowed.". Just outside the window of my apartment—my share of this building—is a bluff where I run into people hiking, a bicycle trail I share with many others, here in Spokane, Washington. There are parks filled with sweet smelling flowers, animals, trees, and other people. This is my home but I share it with many others.


Last week, I went bicycling on the Fish Lake Trail. I rode behind a five year old as he wobbled back and forth in space. We surprised a deer, who stayed for a moment to thrill us before leaping off into the trees along the trail. The boy jumped off his bike, dropped it to the ground and ran off into the forest convinced that he could catch sight of the deer again.


"It is long gone," I called after him waiting for his return. He had to see for himself the impermanence of one experience as a new moment comes—learn for himself to enjoy that moment when you startle a deer grazing by the side of a trail because you only have that moment and then it is gone. But now in his mind's eye he will always have that split second watching the grace of a beautiful doe, muscles taut and strong moving through the air as if unbound by gravity.


I owned a house once but like the deer, I didn't stay. I changed and the trajectory of my whole life shifted so that I could be here now. Now, I rent my apartment so even this space that is just mine, is not really mine at all. And in time this man-made structure will change and even the landscape around me will transform over time.


It is not the space that matters. It is how we share space that makes all the difference.  Is it really worth fight and killing over space. Space that was never ours and never will actually be ours.


Who are your neighbors? Are they like minded souls or vastly different? What have you or can you learn from them in the future?


The Future


Another thing we have in common is the unknowingness of the future. For some people it is their job to know the future. What do you "know" of the future? What do you predict for yourself? Who do you listen to predict your future?


Futurists watch 24 hours of news compressed, sped up in 15 minutes, glimpsing only the highlights—the trends and seeing the pattern, they predict the future.


Doctors never having all the necessary details predict death and disability—not knowing the strength of a unique individuals resolves, resources, relationships that can create healing surprises. "You may become blind," says one to me, but he continues to be wrong for the last 28 years. And no one knows the future.

History Repeating


What is the past but a template, a line headed in a particular direction? We can see the trajectory but know nothing of the things chosen or not chosen that will shift the trajectory in an instance. Each day is new.


George Bernard Shaw said, "If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must man be of learning from experience."


There is a joke about a psychic suing her employer for firing her without notice. We are masters of only this moment.


History or the past is brim full of experiences, that color and hold the seed of the present moment, but this moment changes the next.


In the movie, Next, Cris Johnson, who can see a little bit into the future, says, "Here is the thing about the future. Every time you look at, it changes, because you looked at it, and that changes everything else."


Predictors of The Future


Who do you consult about the future?


Psychics feel the energy, look at auras and predict the future. Astrologers consult the stars, giving us guides for ways to live our lives based on what they see. Whether it helps or hurts is an individual mindset.


Newscasters night after night speak about what has happened and speculate about what is to come.


Weather reporters look at the last hundred years investigating what the combination of temperature, winds, pressure, and humidity did in the past and tell us there is a 30 percent chance of rain. That is what happened 30 percent of the time under similar conditions in the past. I wonder if one day in the future, theaters and restaurants will band together and sue weather forecasters when they are wrong about that "huge" winter storm, that doesn't come. Everyone stays home, business and experiences lost because of a prediction. We can never get that time back, that time we worried about the future.


Foresters and gardener plant trees and perennials and have a certain expectations and hopes for future yields. Stock brokers buy corn futures or gold futures. Parents have children and plan funds for future education. Middle managers speculate on retirement funds.


And we all plan but none of us knows.


So if you don't know what the future will bring, what are you saying about the future—something that will never exist—as every cell in your body listens? What are you predicting about time, about which, Albert Einstein said, "The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion."


Community of Humanity Now


When will we truly see our connections, our community of humanity, and realize that it is not time and space that matter but what we do with the time and space we occupy right now?

Real Community Prayer



Kimberly Burnham

There is a saying, "Worrying is like praying for what you don't want."


Do you pray? What are you praying for?


Sometimes I wonder truly, "What is prayer?"


Is it the thoughts I have when I meet a relationship challenge? Is it the song in my heart as I bicycle past a beautiful blue lake cradling the clouds on its glassy surface? Is it the words I form and speak in a worship community? Is it the gratitude I feel when I wake up creative and brilliant in the morning or as I watch the light fade from the sky at night, knowing I have lived one more day.


I don't know anyone who would object to these things. Who would deny my right to express and communicate with the world in this way. But for some, the way I pray in my heart or in my community divides me from the community of humanity.


We all have needs: food, shelter, warmth, a sense of connection and more. Do you pray for these things for yourself, for your family, and for your community? Where is the line where you stop praying? Is it a boundary around yourself, your family, your community, your nation, your continent or your species?


Is it possible to pray for everyone? What does that mean? What kind of a time and space commitment is that—praying for everyone and everything? It could take up every minute of every day for the rest of my life. And what kind of life would that be?


If I pray for my neighbor do I not, first have to think about who is my neighbor? Who is your neighbor? Where do you draw the boundary, the line around what is you and yours and what is other?


I have crisscrossed the globe, lived in five countries and worked for short periods of time in a dozen more. I know how to feel like a stranger, a foreigner, a Gringo, an ugly America, a third culture kid, or a global nomad. I feel how people draw the lines around yours and mine.


And so I continue to search for the abundance that knows no limit, where there is enough for all and we are one community of humanity on a connected and vital planet as the title of this page implies. We are joined with all the other living creatures and with even the molecules of the earth and the sky.


Recent research associated health with praying and an expectation that the prayer would be answered. Researchers said, "This study assesses the health-related effects of trust-based prayer expectancies, which reflect the belief that God answers prayers at the right time and in the best way." They also found, "people who endorse trust-based prayer expectancies will have greater feelings of self-esteem; and higher self-esteem is associated with better self-rated health." Krause, N. and R. D. Hayward (2014). "Trust-based prayer expectancies and health among older Mexican Americans." J Relig Health 53(2): 591-603.


When you reach out to ask and thank the universe or power beyond yourself, do you expect a response? How is your health and self-esteem? How is your neighbor's?


In another study which "investigated the effect of Muslim prayer (salat) on electroencephalography (EEG - Brain waves), autonomic nervous activity and heart rate variability," researchers found, "during salat, parasympathetic activity increased [rest and digest] and sympathetic activity [fight or flight] decreased. Therefore, regular salat practices may help promote relaxation, minimize anxiety, and reduce cardiovascular risk." Doufesh, H., F. Ibrahim, et al. (2014). "Effect of Muslim Prayer (Salat) on alpha Electroencephalography and Its Relationship with Autonomic Nervous System Activity." J Altern Complement Med.

Do your daily practices promote relaxation, minimize anxiety and reduce cardiovascular risk [heart attacks] for yourself, your family and your community?


Community, community, community to cultivate your imagination. A 2013 study showed, "many social scientists attribute the health-giving properties of religious practice to social support." The researchers argued "that another mechanism may be a positive relationship with the supernatural, a proposal that builds upon anthropological accounts of symbolic healing. Such a mechanism depends upon the learned cultivation of the imagination and the capacity to make what is imagined more real and more good." Luhrmann, T. M. (2013). "Making God real and making God good: some mechanisms through which prayer may contribute to healing." Transcult Psychiatry 50(5): 707-725.


What do you think is real? Is your community and connections real? My favorite definition of what is real comes from the book, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.


The Skin Horse, in the Velveteen Rabbit, "had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.


"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"


"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."


"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.


"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."


"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"


"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time.


That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."


"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.


Researchers go on to support the "claim that a relationship with a loving God, cultivated through the imagination in prayer, may contribute to good health and may contribute to healing in trauma and psychosis. " Luhrmann, T. M. (2013). "Making God real and making God good: some mechanisms through which prayer may contribute to healing." Transcult Psychiatry 50(5): 707-725.


How do you make real connections?

Poetic Responsibility and Peace


Kimberly Burnham, PhD

Do you know someone who uses poetry to create healing or, perhaps, through poetry or other means seeks to build a stronger peace in this world? If you do, have you ever asked yourself whether you have any responsibility toward that person?


Often we ask ourselves what our responsibility is when we see someone doing something bad. Should we step in and stop them? Will we get hurt in the process? Will someone feel shamed? What are the risks and dangers?


In an editorial column rebuking someone who used religious language in hate speech, Rabbi Menachem Creditor said, "Jewish tradition teaches that "All who can protest against something wrong that one of their family is doing and does not protest, is held accountable for their family. All who can protest against something wrong that a citizen of their city is doing and does not protest, is held accountable for all citizens of the city. All who can protest against something wrong that is being done in the whole world, is accountable together with all citizens of the world. (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 54b)"


Perhaps many of us feel clear on our responsibility when we see someone doing something harmful to individuals and communities, but what is our responsibility when we know of someone who is doing something great—something that furthers the cause of peace and healing?


What is our responsibility when someone changes our lives for the better? Is it enough to enjoy knowing them and go about our busy day? If we step in and share their message with our community will we be more visible in the world? Will they? What will happen?


There is a saying among journalists, "if it bleeds it leads." Too often our attention is drawn to the blood and gore of life but what of the people who are quietly going about their lives looking each day to make this earth a better place and publishing books with titles like World Healing, World Peace? What of the people who are giving thousands of poets a forum to give voice to their creative ideas and heartfelt emotions lighting up the world?

Recently, I had a chance to talk with William S Peters Sr or 'just bill' about where his nearly 50 years in publishing, writing books and poetry is taking him. I started to think about each of us, whose lives he has touched in such a warm and generous way. I started to think about our responsibility.  Of course, we can and should continue to enjoy the ways he provides a forum for our voices, through anthologies, personal appearances and individual conversations. We should follow and take pleasure in his leadership as he guides us into places where our voices can change the world, whether it is a world a thousand miles away where someone reads our poems or down the street where we do a book reading or talk to a friend in a cozy cafe.


As a part of this community of humanity, we have the privilege to tell others about both our own part in creating healing and peace in the world and Bill Peters' way of making our contribution possible through the written and spoken word.


If you are one of the thousands of poets whose life has been touched by William S. Peters Sr., thank him by sharing his message with someone today. And then look around at who else nourishes your community and share their message.


We are all connected! One of us knows someone who knows someone who chooses Noble Peace laureates and in so doing extends the laureates influence to an even greater number of people. One or two of us knows someone who knows the President of the United States or another world leader. At least three of us know of bookstores where there are book readings and workshops. Thousands of us know people in powerful positions within a country, community or family, who can be touched by our collective voices. Sharing a personal and collective message grows the positive impact. The ability to dry the tears of a million of children is amplified. We need to sow and nourish the seeds we have been given.


As Bill says, "I have always likened Life to that of a Garden. So, for me, Life is simply  about the Seeds we Sow and Nourish. All things we “Think and Do”, will “Be” Cause and eventually manifest itself to being an “Effect” within our own personal  “Existences” and “Experiences” . . . whether it be Fruit, Flowers, Weeds or Barren Landscapes!"


Who do you know?

Jiggling Eyes, Genetics and The Potential to Recover

"My eyes jiggle when I jump up and down like this ..." The six year old boy demonstrated in my clinical treatment room.


"He can't tell the difference between orange and red or between purple and blue, since the accident." His mother voiced her concerns, explaining the details of his fall two days earlier. "He hit his face on a chain link fence and bruised his elbows."


In Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT), a kind of hands-on alternative medicine, there is a reflex point at the hard tip of the elbow that when rubbed, pressed or needled is said to influence the rods and the cones of the eyes. The cones, gathered in the center macula of the retina are responsible for color vision.


I didn't always know how to help people like six year old, Jack or the 82 year old woman losing her vision to macular degeneration or the young woman with inflammation of the eyes due to multiple sclerosis. But my appreciation of beauty, of light and color started practically from when I was born to an artist and an international businessman. Perhaps my connection with Eastern healing philosophies, like acupressure, Qigong and meditation started with the energetic line connection me to my father who was on a US Naval Ship in Japan, the day I was born.


When I was eight years old my family and I lived in Latin America. One day near a waterfall in a Colombian jungle my father helped me catch a blue morpho butterfly. Its huge iridescent wings were the most beautiful things I had ever seen.


By the time I was twenty-eight, I was working as a professional photographer and a freelance journalist. I had seen Paris from the top of the Eifel Tower, climbed to play around the Belgian Lion of Waterloo, walked the halls of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, ridden a train through the Siberian summer, hiked along the Great Wall of China, enjoyed the lush green vegetation of the Fern Grotto in Kaui,  and peered out of the highest windows in the world across Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe of Southern Ontario.


And then that trajectory of my life came to a screeching halt. In his stark white coat, with impressive degrees on the wall, the ophthalmologist said to me, "You need to consider your life in case you become blind. It is genetic, so there is nothing you can do about it." He diagnosed me with Keratoconus, a genetic condition of the cornea.

For a time I believed his pronouncements about my potential and the world seemed a little darker. I went to massage school, a profession where you don't necessarily have to be able to see to continue working.

One day in massage school with a big black spot in the middle of my vision and a wicked bad migraine, I literally had to moved my head from side to side to see the test questions. On my way home on the Toronto subway, I reached a new low and something about hitting the bottom changed my trajectory again.


"This is not okay. There has to be something I can do for myself," I said as I tried to block out the subway car sights and sounds crashing about my head.


That set me on a journey through alternative medicine approaches, with names like Integrative Manual Therapy, Matrix Energetics, Qigong, Acupressure, Craniosacral Therapy, Visceral Manipulation, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT Tapping) and many more in search of solutions for my own vision problems and migraines.


Today I have a clinical practice where I get to work with and see the positive changes in people like Jack. I get to put my hands on his neck and head, relaxing the muscles, mobilizing the joints, improving the blood flow and drainage as well as press on reflex point that results in ... after a couple of hours of acupressure-like therapy, he is vigorously hopping and exclaiming, "My eyes don't jiggle anymore!" Within a week he has reclaimed his rich and vibrant universe. When I speak to groups, I share this story because it illustrates how easily nerves can heal.


At 55, my own vision is better than when I was 28 and probably better than when I was eight years old catching a blue morpho butterfly. I am migraine-free and enjoy consulting in physical therapy, chiropractic and massage clinics around the world.


One of the things I love to ask people is ... "What if it is just that easy? What if you can increase the vibrancy of your world by putting one hand over your eyes and the other hand on a reflex point, for example, an Integrative Manual Therapy synchronizer at the hard tip of the left elbow, or a point at the back of the neck along the Traditional Chinese Medicine gallbladder meridian? These reflex points can be touched, pressed, or rubbed, and then connected with the eyes for a few minutes to enhance your potential. Is it worth trying to see, literally, if you can use your hands and mind to heal your brain and your eyes?


Brain science shows that it is easier for your mind to strive for what you desire than to let go of what you don't want. What do you want more of? What do you want to see in your life? If truly anything can shift concerning your health, life, or your relationships, what do you want? How does "better" look and feel to you?

Kimberly Burnham, Ph.D.

The Resilience, Beauty and Healing in Natural Diversity

There is power in droplets of time that change the flow of life. Moments in the future where I will dig deep for the strength to finish the hundredth Montana mile on my bicycle this summer.


Moments in the past when I felt the exhaustion and exhilaration of the fifty-third Connecticut mile on Hazon's New York Ride while raising money for sustainable agriculture. Then five pounds lighter I rode 71 New Hampshire miles along the coastal waters enjoying that diverse interface where the particles of sand and earth meet waves of water.


Moments in the present as I train for a 3300 mile bicycle ride across the United States. June 13, 2013.  I will dip my bicycle wheels in the cold Pacific waters near Seattle and set off across the Cascade Mountains for Montana, Michigan Maryland and points East before riding into Washington DC to the shores of the Atlantic.


My goal is to cover all the ground between the oceans on my bicycle, stopping along the way to talk to people about what they love in their land, their perspective on how to share something wonderful and beautiful with generations to come. I will connect and converse about how we can feel the comfort in the similarities we share, while noticing and learning from our differences thus creating the kind of community we each want to live in.


Environmentalist and author of The Fifth Sacred Thing, Starhawk said, "Value diversity—for diversity creates resilience."


I ride to honor the diversity around me in the natural environment, in the people I meet and connect with in a way that passengers in a speeding car cannot and to feel the inner changes that happen when you wake up in a different place every morning for nine weeks.


I ride to share in the beauty of this land, to feel the cool breeze as the sun soaks the earth and plants like tiny wizards change light energy and water into a colorful array of physical matter. I ride East with the prevailing winds, to feel a push from Mother Nature and see the summer move through the mountains and the plains.


I ride to raise money for sustainability. This ride is supported by Hazon, which means vision in Hebrew. Raised funds will go to start up community supported agriculture programs (CSAs), which make available to families and children local, wholesome vegetables and fruits. Last summer through my local CSA, I ate organic Connecticut grown watermelon, squash, mixed greens, dinosaur kale, heirloom tomatoes, and even more unusual things like the fractal-shaped romanesca, which is like a swirling green cross between a cauliflower and broccoli.

In my own home garden I have the usual beets, tomatoes, peas and lettuce and the unusual antioxidant rich goji berries, lemon cucumbers and large sweet Japanese pears that I became so fond of while living in Japan.


Hazon also supports educational programs for school children, giving them an opportunity to see a compost pile full of wiggling earthworms creating rich dark soil, and get up close to chickens and goats. They learn how to feel and see when a watermelon is ripe.

I believe we protect and value what we see as beautiful and I wonder how a child who has never picked an organic carrot, washed off the dirt and taken a golden carotene rich bite will care where their food and their children's food comes from. I wonder if they can even imagine what they are missing in a world without "fresh".


What do you see as beautiful? In my life off the bike, I have an Integrative Medicine practice in West Hartford, CT and consult in physical therapy, chiropractic and massage clinics around the world. I use hands-on techniques and other forms of alternative medicine to decrease pain and help people see and move more easily. My clients report improvement in their eyesight as well as a growing awareness, consciousness and insights into ways to heal and share the life they want with their family and community.


I ride for my own healing, weight management and health. My grandfather died of diabetes. My uncle lost his leg to this disease shared by 18 million Americans. Avoiding their footsteps at age 55, I enjoy bicycling, eating healthy, creating opportunities for mindful self-awareness and reconnecting with the rhythms in my life.


Diabetes is linked to a loss of sensation, a loss of vision captured by the retina, plagued by neuropathies, and a failure to connect to the rhythms of life — the rise and fall of blood sugar, the chase of insulin up and down the curve, the restful recovery period of sleep followed by alert, creative, productive wakefulness, the cycles of flow creating sensation from the toes to the eyes, and the rise and fall of hunger balanced by mindful eating.


How did you sleep last night? Did you wake up refreshed and feel energetic and creative? Are you ready to contribute to your community and enjoy the abundance in your life?


I believe that people, who feel better, make better choices for themselves, their families and their communities. I want to be a part of a community where everyone feels good, has lots of energy and knows how to enjoy the beauty of nature, the strength of relationships and the abundance of life that we each hold in our own hands.


—Kimberly Burnham

Niki Leach a.k.a. Jean Victoria Norloch is a Canadian author, online radio show host, filmmaker and mother with a mission.  Born in Toronto, Canada and now living in Montreal she looks at the world with wonder and amazement. Believing there to be a commonality in the fundamental make up of the human heart she set out to show through her work that all peoples are caring and compassionate and in need of the same basic essentials to live.   Finding inspiration has been easy and the closer she examines the remarkable beings we call humans, the more joy she finds in being an active part of the global community we call humanity. 

Jean's Web Site

Jean's Blog

Everyday Connection Radio

Jean's Media Corner

Excerpt from Truth - The Messenger.mp3

Call to Action

For Independent Artists, Self-Published Authors,

and Print-On-Demand Publishing Companies

I recently had the unfortunate experience of applying for an emergency grant that has been set up by a well-known Canadian organization to support and fund the efforts of Canadian authors in times of need.  As any artist knows, the struggle to continue to create positive material during times of emotional and financial distress can be overwhelming and have devastating effects on the results of creative works.  With this in mind, both governments and independent agencies have for years provided financial support for the artistic community.  Unfortunately, it appears that for many of these organizations the validity of an artist’s work is not based on the merit of the work, nor is it based on the positive social impact that the work may have, rather it is based on the size and the power of the organizations that have in the past supported the artist.


Speaking specifically in terms of an author applying for financial assistance there is a bias among those who provide such assistance to not support authors who are independently published or who have been published and supported by print to order publishing houses.  Many organizations, including government grants have very clearly stipulated guidelines on their websites that stresses this particular bias.  In fact, even some well renowned awards will not accept novels as entries that come from self-published authors, or print to order publishing houses.  Others make it very clear that eBooks are not acceptable either for applications for financial assistance or as entry into competition.


Given our current need to create a more sustainable way of sharing information due to the obvious fact that we have used and abused our planets resources for far too long, this bias against print to order publishing houses both confuses and concerns me.  If in fact, an author chooses to remain with a print to order publishing house due to personal concern for the environment, then their resources become very limited and their options for assistance even more so.  I find this unacceptable in today’s society and feel that it is an issue that needs be addressed and openly discussed in a public venue in the hopes that in the future these organizations will re-examine their priorities.


Speaking of my own personal experience, with an organization that I will not name out of respect for the fact that one man’s actions does not reflect on an entire group of people who may truly desire to help further creative ambitions, I was appalled to discover that my email application was both dismissed out of hand and to be addressed in said email by a name that is not mine.

continued . . . .                                                                             →


Jean and Rick


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continued . . . .  

I am a published author who began my career over three years ago as a self-published author who did initially pay a publishing house to publish my first novel.  Since that time, my work has been picked up by a publishing house in the USA that works as both a self-publishing agent and a traditional publishing house that accepts manuscripts for submission.  What sets them apart however and why I have remained with them is that they offer a print to order and eBook solution to our 21st century environmental needs.  They are a small family based business who focus on the authors’ needs and encourages the authors’ responsibilities both with regards to involvement with the creative process and with having a social media presence and ongoing interaction with their readers.   


I am published through Grave Distractions Publication on contract, as a traditionally published author as was outlined by my publishers letter of reference to the organization that I was applying to.  What troubles me is that my application was dismissed on the grounds that I am not considered a professional author as my publisher is in fact a print on demand publishing company.  It did not matter that I have published 2 novels in print, 3 novels in eBook format and 1 compilation of donated blogs in eBook format (a charity project that included writings by ten authors), nor did it matter that I work in a socially conscious genre and that the project I was applying for assistance to complete is in fact a book designed to inspire and uplift those suffering from chronic pain and illness so that they might find their way to healing.  In fact the merit of my work never came into question only the legitimacy of my carefully chosen publishing company.  I am including in this article the guidelines for this organization as outlined on their website…


  1. Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
  2. Working on a book-length project in the category of fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, play-writing, or children’s literature.
  3. A professional writer engaged in the production of literary work for some time (a minimum of 2 professionally published works or an equivalent body of work; self-published and ghostwritten works will not be accepted).
  4. Facing an unforeseen financial need (usually a matter of exigency including but not limited to illness, legal issue, or debt problem, rather than an on-going, chronic problem of making a living) that imperils the completion of their project.
  5. What follows is a line from the email explaining why my application was rejected…


“In reviewing your application we unfortunately conclude that you do not yet at this point in your writing career meet the program’s eligibility requirement.


To be eligible for the Woodcock Fund a writer must have professionally published a minimum of two literary titles. It is our understanding that your previous publications were with a firm (Grave Distractions Publications) we would categorize as a print-on-demand or self-publishing operation.”

I am disappointed in the blatant disregard of my application and the obvious bias against the company that I have been blessed to be represented by and I would hope that in the future there might be a more open and accepting attitude towards agencies that publish print on demand works.


My reasons tonight for writing this article are not to cry out in anguish over my personal failure to acquire the funds I need but rather they are due to my concern for the future of publishing and for the art of the written word.  If we cannot find a way to marry our need to create sustainable publishing with our need to continue to support the arts then surely we have failed in one of the most important elements for shifting our society over to a more sustainable way of life.


I am blessed to be secure in my sense of self-worth, due to years of public exposure as an author, blogger, screenwriter, producer and on-line radio show host.  I am surrounded by a massive support network who continues to supply me with a never ending flow of inspiration.  My concern is that if such a response could briefly bring me to question my own professional worth as an author, what effect would such a response have on a young dreamer who is just stretching their creative wings?


How do we define the worth of an artist, do we judge the work itself, the merit and the potential it has to bring joy into our world or do we judge it on the size and power of the company who promotes and markets it.


It is time for us to look into our hearts, as individuals, readers, artists, producers, publishers and grant-makers and ask ourselves what we would like the future of publishing to look like.  Do we want it to reflect the creative dream that drives all authors to put pen to paper or do we want it to reflect the greed of those who would continue to rape and pillage our resources in the never-ending quest for the almighty dollar.

It is time we spoke up…


I implore you as readers, as writers, as publishers and producers, musicians and artists, independent and otherwise to speak out against this… Write poems about it, talk about it in your video’s and on your radio shows … Blog about it, make songs about it… Bring this issue to the forefront of the public through your various social media networks and demand that this abuse of our creative energy be halted.  We are not here to make money for big corporations, we are here to create – to uplift and to inspire and it is time that our governments, charitable organizations and the public supported our passion, our talents and our unrelenting drive to do so.

Everyday Connection Blog

Call to Action by Jean Victoria Norloch.pdf Call to Action by Jean Victoria Norloch.pdf
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