“Battle for the Elephants” documentary speaks Louder than Words

I’m getting closer to figuring out what it is that I am here for in this lifetime. Though I am not sure where I will go next, having just watched a documentary featured on PBS http://www.pbs.org/programs/battle-elephants/ about the near extinction of elephants due to the skyrocketing pricetag of ivory on their heads primarily coming from the demand in China, I just had another realization.

wildlife_conservation_society_battle_for_the_elephants

I returned from a city that rarely sleeps – Berlin, Germany – to this sleepy town in Pennsylvania where I was raised. The impetus was to spend time with my father and reunite with my family, an homage to my parents. In this quiet place, I have maintained health and physical and intellectual fitness; doing outdoor sports, being in nature, playing musical instruments, reading, attending classes and taking in a lot of information. I’ve read plenty of articles in magazines such as the Smithsonian, National Geographic, UTNE Reader, Christian Science Monitor with worldwide scopes on social unrest, inequalities, imbalanced values, environmental hazards, greed (and some positive things ‘-) … I have been very fortunate that much of the information that has presented itself to me through local classes has been completely in synch with subjects that I have interest in. I believe it’s synchronicity or synchrodestiny, that I chose to return at this time. It has been a time and place of going inwards and absorbing – so that I could distill all of this information about the heart, spirit and mind…without distraction. Though I am absolutely pulled in many directions because of my interests, I realize that I very much adore and value the creatures that share our planet, many of which are nearing extinction. Something about this particular documentary, this evening lead me to believe that my purpose is to make a commitment to be a voice for those who have none. I don’t quite know how to effectively influence a population of a billion people to have empathy for the creatures that are being sacrificed for their commercial use of ivory – that has been going on for a thousand years – to satisfy their need to display wealth, taste, fine art, uphold religious iconography, meet their health needs or extenuate their impotence… but outside of joining a rebel force in East Africa to fire weapons at poachers, I will, to the best of my ability, convey information and tune whatever means I have with my body, mind, creativity, word, music and art, to raise the awareness and consciousness of the world to the plight of the creatures that we share it with, and to speak, for those who can’t speak for themselves. Statistics on Elephants in Africa

http://www.wcs.org/elephants/ The Wildlife Conservation Society provides you with various ways to help.

Stop the Demand


WCS plans to utilize Chinese social media platforms to encourage public engagement to reduce demand for ivory and influence how government agencies respond to the illegal ivory trade. We will support the creation of a social media hub in Beijing that focuses on information sharing, opinion mapping, building partnerships, and mobilization.

How You Can Help

Elephants can’t protect themselves against organized, armed criminals. To face down this tremendous threat, they’ll need the help of dedicated ecoguards who can intervene immediately. They’ll also need you.

http://events.nationalgeographic.com/events/films/2013/02/26/battle-elephants/

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/04/world/africa/africas-elephants-are-being-slaughtered-in-poaching-frenzy.html

nytimes_poaching_frenzy_africas_elephants_wiped_out

National_Geographic_information

“Law enforcement officials say organized crime has slipped into the ivory underworld, because only a well-oiled criminal machine – with the help of corrupt officials – could move hundreds of pounds of tusks thousands of miles across the globe…Like blood diamonds from Sierra Leone or plundered minerals from Congo, ivory, it seems, is the latest conflict resource in Africa, dragged out of remote battle zones, easily converted into cash and now fueling conflicts across the continent.”

Another recent article in the New York Times just appeared on the subject, with respect to the illicit trail of African ivory to China. Here is an important resource with many articles on the subject. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/world/africa/the-price-of-ivory.html?ref=asia

new york times article illicit trade of ivory to China

new york times article illicit trade of ivory

Here’s more information on the subject. http://www.care2.com/causes/will-african-elephants-be-extinct-in-ten-years.html

elephant_shot

Pursuit of Happiness  | IDEA  | Authentic Happiness  |  PERMA | Motion

In my pursuit of happiness, a couple months ago I decided to take a trip. It appeared to be pretty spontaneous, yet I had intended to eventually make this circuit, after having lived for the last 6 years in Europe. I had moved to Barcelona in 2004 and then Berlin, Germany for a second time in 2005. It had been a while since I had physically visited these former communities and friends living there, upon returning to the United States on the eve of Christmas, 2011. My first prompt was to reach San Francisco by the day of the How Weird Street Faire http://howweird.org, which would certainly bring a lot of people together in one place, from among the community of people I knew while living in the ccc warehouse, back in the day when my housemate Brad Olsen had established the first How Weird. En route, I decided that I could visit friends in Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico, as I made my way to the West coast. I was originally drawn to Taos, a high desert town not far from the Colorado border and nestled in the lower reaches of the Rocky mountains, for snow skiing. I had worked at the ski area there teaching skiing for several years, then later lived in Santa Fe in 2003, teaching skiing at the Ski Basin. The point of this trip was to assess where I might wish to relocate, if it happens to be in the United States, and also to visit with friends who I hadn’t seen in a while. As I mentioned in the last blog, I found a flight to Denver, with the intention of hitch-hiking to Taos, as my first destination. After staying in Taos for the first stretch, I continued hitching on to several additional New Mexico locations, and further on to California. I successfully made it to the street fair on time, and really had a delightful visit throughout. I cut my journey short however, because of a number of reasons. Though my initial incentive was to investigate Portland and Seattle as well as Los Angeles, as potential places to consider relocating, I opted against them. Basically, I intuited that probably each of these towns offer a combination of what I’m looking for in a residence; lots of opportunities for people to participate in music, cultural, art related and outdoor sports like mt. biking, ultimate frisbee and nearby mountains for skiing and snow boarding, as well as having a solid infrastructure for bicycle routes along with a good public transportation network (with the exception of LA). However, what I would miss, is the accessibility of dipping into different European languages on a regular basis, which is typical in Berlin. I studied cultural anthropology and am fascinated by languages and the movement of them along cultural migratory routes. I have to admit that I am not too keen on monotone weather either, and really prefer the dynamics of four seasons.

My visiting adventure came to a poignant exclamation mark wrap-up, when I found myself seated on a return flight to the East coast next to a woman who had just written an article http://positivepsychologynews.com/news/elaine-obrien/2012053122448 in Positive Psychology News about health, fitness and general well being. She was touching on the subject of happiness, which I’ve ironically been blogging about numerous times. The mantra of many of my friends is ‘there are no coincidences’. Elain was returning from the 2012 IDEA Health and Fitness Convention, and had just published an article about it, writing specifically about the association. Here are their publications. http://www.ideafit.com/idea-fitness-journal

With her aura of helpfulness and kindness, Elaine was ebullient as she offered information about the subject of fitness, health and Kinesiology (movement). Years ago when I lived in San Francisco and was sketching a guy sitting next to me at a bar, he asked me to draw my ‘favorite thing’. I responded with an impromptu picture of concentric circles, indicating that this was an image of the concept of motion. Here’s the original sketch on a napkin

and a subsequent version on a card I created.

Motion

I spontaneously revealed that motion is my favorite thing; both geographical, intellectual, physical, spiritual…indicating that through moving to a new place/perspective, can one acquire a new insight. I later read Elaine’s article and saw a quote of Plato’s prominently placed at the beginning: “Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical exercise save it and preserve it.”

Elaine writes that Peter and Kathie Davis started the group IDEA, to ‘inspire the world to fitness and wellness’, back in 1982, which has now grown to 65,000 members worldwide. They wanted to create “an association where fitness professionals could learn from each other and from the experts”. According to Peter, “Fitness professionals focused mostly on the body for the first 25 years. What we at IDEA have tried to do in the last few years, is to encourage fitness leaders to understand the mind, the body, and the spirit together in a wholeness model. Through this, we can inspire wellness and positive transformation.” Their incentive is to re-frame the way that people look at health and fitness, to recognize how integrally these are related to the pursuit of happiness. They wish to inspire people to make healthier behavioral changes towards wellness.

She also quotes Tal Ben-Shahar, “Exercise feels good, enhances self-esteem, induces calm, improves thinking, makes you feel more attractive, has virtually no negative side effects, is legal, and is free.” He teaches a course on ‘Happiness’ within the Positive Psychology department at Harvard, University, and has written a book “Happier”. Interviewed on The Daily Show, he mentions that students claim that the course makes them feel happier. He hopes to raise the level of happiness and quality of life in the community.

How do we understand happiness and how can we apply this to our lives? There’s a growing movement in positive psychology and for the first time a ‘science of Happiness’. A study done by the Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, not to be confused with con man’-)) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Kahneman has found that people are less happy if they are too distracted. Therefore, this is not merely about physical fitness and motion, but the necessity of being ‘present’ in what you’re doing. In addition, studies demonstrate that meditation can actually affect how the brain works, so that people can feel the positive emotions more fully and be more resilient to deal with negative ones. Incidentally, my frustration with my refusal to specialize, and insistence in juggling multiple projects in disparate areas, sometimes causes me to feel like I’m not making enough headway. A few weeks ago as I was sensing this, I decided to ‘randomly’ pull a magazine out from a pile of “Utne Readers” to see if the one I picked might synchronistically deliver a message. Ahhh, the one that I slid out from near the bottom of the stack spoke ardently about my ‘problem’.

A Focused Life

It was the issue with the theme of “Focus” and “Why We Are So Distracted and What to Do About It

My airplane neighbor Elaine also talked about Dr. Martin Seligman, the Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. It’s more than serendipity, that his homepage is “Authentic Happiness” His website welcomes visitors to use the tools and resources available for free.

An excerpt of his book, “Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being” “What Is Well-Being? The Original Theory: Authentic Happiness” describes that we not only make choices because something makes us feel good, with more measurable happiness; such as pleasure, comfort, delight, joy, ecstasy. But we also can really derive happiness by being ‘in the flow’ of an activity, when we are totally engaged. This is when time appears to stop, because we are so completely absorbed in an activity that we lose track of time. Engagement is different, even opposite to positive emotion he says, because people often become so involved in an activity that they are aware of nothing, and are not thinking or feeling. The flow involves having to employ your highest strengths and skills. With respect to this, I like to make the analogy of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, when he talks about “using the force”. Seligman states that the third element of happiness that he defines in his book, is meaning. Summarizing his well-being theory since revising it further, it is encompassed in these measurable elements which all contribute to happiness, expressed in the acronym PERMA. Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning/purpose and Accomplishment.

I like the fact that my journey pulled me back to these same themes, motion and happiness, which I am engaged in perpetually, in my pursuit of happiness, fulfillment and meaning. My intention is to aspire to and maintain health, resilience and awareness, balanced with forever engaging in what I love to do, so that I can somehow contribute to inspiring and guiding others to find their own path.

https://carolkeiter.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/happiness/

http://digesthis.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/guides-to-living-longer-happier-lives-right-here-right-now/

http://digesthis.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/speaking-of-happiness-laughter-yoga-giggling-guru-madan-kataria/

http://digesthis.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/happyness-making-the-best-of-what-you-have/

http://digesthis.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/gross_domestic_problem_-why-measurement-of-wealth-depends-on-a-healthy-environment/