NEW TITLE for E Pluribus Flag project – Please help.

It’s time for an update on the latest and lastest flag in the E Pluribus effort. This large flag will be installed at the World Trade Center later this year. You may have seen the previous post entitled Reconstructing E Pluribus – a few things have changed. Now it looks like 3 World Trade is the destination. The flag will now be 50′ by 30′ but everything else is the same.

Right now I have a third of the flag completed with fabrics that I have along with the many beautiful contributions people have sent. So far the flag includes Indian, Scottish, Balinese, Botswanan, Brazilian, English, Nigerian and more fabrics. I still want and need your culture represented. Please contact me if you would like to send some unique or meaningful cloth.

I’d like to shoot for an opening coinciding with 9/11 but that depends on space, so well wishes on that front are welcome.

Now to the critical question, what should I call this flag? If you scroll down to the last blog about it you can see the cumbersome place holder title – Reconstructing E Pluribus Unum during Political Storm Winds. Now I am looking for something catchy and eloquent. The inference of the old title is just too heavy for me now. I am tired of the political games going on and want to focus on the brightness of amicable relations usually evident between us in our diverse communities at all times normally. Right now I really like the word Simpatico it seems to fit but it is too much of one cultural reference to stand alone. Should I pile a few words like that from different cultures together to make the point? Do you have any recommendations?

So I’m counting on you my friends to help me get this right.

Here are some of the fabrics donated, including a pink pussy hat.

Thank you all.

Equador Fabric from Rosa

Happy New Year Norooz 1396


Again and again we have the opportunity to celebrate a Happy New Year, we are blessed to have so many cultures in our country that designate different times of the year as the beginning. So we can begin again now. I am just now discovering a new holy day I never knew about and I love it. Thank Ed and Nahal for sharing and permitting me to share here too.

My dear cool rocker friend Ed Hale wrote this on his Facebook page today about sharing the New Year with his gorgeous wife, Nahal, who is from Iran. I am delighted to share it here because what he said exemplifies Heaven is Here and E Pluribus with a state of mind of celebration and unity. You all know I am passionate about that.

“So here’s the thing about marrying a Persian… As a society we in the West have evolved to a place where we celebrate, or at least acknowledge, several of the various “New Year’s” holidays of some of the different cultures that comprise our great melting pot. We just recently welcomed in the Chinese New Year of the Rooster…. And many of us are used to celebrating the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, every year.
Persians use the Spring Equinox as their New Year. Some of us are already accustomed to this as it is one of the major shabbats of the various different pagan or Goddess-based religions like Wicca, High Magic or Witchcraft, globally always called Ostar — which of course is the foundation for the origin of the more recent “Easter” celebration the Christians adopted from it (having absolutely nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with bunnies and eggs…)
BUT… Persians, in their effort to stay more committed/honest/sincere/true/faithful/(fill in the blank), literally wait to celebrate the Spring Equinox at the exact time that it takes place wherever and whenever they are on the earth at the time. So for us this year, being in New York, that moment can at 6:28 am. Which means one wakes up at least an hour before to partake in all the rituals associated with this beautiful celebration.
As some know, your’s truly didn’t go to bed last night till 2:00 am… so yes, I… am…. TIRED. BUT this holiday to a Persian is literally like Christmas is to a Christian. So there’s no sleeping through it. You wouldn’t even consider it.
One of cool things about it is that once we count down the New Year, just as we do in the West on December 31st at midnight, we take calls from all over the world 🌎 and each of these people are in a totally different timezone. Friends and family from CA and Vancouver are calling from 3:30 am, from Europe at 12:30 pm and from Iran and the Middle East at 3:30 pm. No matter where or when we are we’re all doing the same thing. It’s pretty cool.
With that, I’m going to curl up here and try to catch a few more winks before we officially start the day. Happy Norooz everybody! May PEACE and LOVE find a way to dominate our world regardless.
-Ambassador”

For more information about Norooz click here

To learn more about the super cool ED HALE click here

Beautiful photo by Nahal Hale.

Let’s Share Uplifted States of Being

It’s been a rough two weeks since the inauguration of our new “president”. I put that in quotes because of the way he took the post, the way he comports himself in the role and the fact that I just cannot accept him for so many reasons. My reasons are obvious to everyone by now so I will not rehash them anymore. Since the night of the election and the excruciating agita that ensued I have to admit that I have indulged in despair, anxiety, fear, endless addicted news consumption followed by over sharing and dismay. I have also felt a shattering confusion and a profound desire not to accept what Trump’s election says about the American people as a whole. This leaves me with a deep sense of loss. I feel as though someone dear and near; a chosen friend; that precious and fragile ideology – E Pluribus Unum – has died.

As an immigrant from England 50 years ago I have always marveled at the diversity of cultures here and at the diversity inherent in so many people that I know. If you are a recent immigrant you might be mostly of one culture but most Americans are the embodiment of E Pluribus Unum with ancestors from so many cultures or countries.

For the last 14 years I have worked on an art project to celebrate the idea of diversity in unity. I believe we can and do live together in harmony and that fact needs to be explored and shared. We only hear about the conflicts in the media we need to celebrate what works more. What is most special about the US is that we are free to express our culture in our own way or we can integrate and become ‘Americanized’ or we can straddle both worlds. Then there is another benefit to this diverse mélange of culture; everyone has access to the gifts of their neighbor’s ancestral wisdom.

In my encounters with people of diverse cultures that coexist here in New York I have found that everyone is delighted to share and honored that I am interested. So here I willingly share some ancient techniques for living a great life that I have gleaned from my enriching encounters. They are a gift for coping with these stressful times in order to cool the heated mind, calm the agitated heart and lift the depressed spirit.

First I recommend chanting. Many traditions employ chanting as a way to still the mind. I recommend Hindu or Indian chants. Regulation of the breath slows the heart and soothes the mind. Pretty soon you can breathe more deeply, relax your muscles and even settle into a super quiet, nourishing and comforting place within yourself. New York is full of welcoming centers, ashrams and temples.

Meditation is another profoundly relaxing and nourishing practice that many spiritual and religious paths recommend because it works. It is not as complicated as it may seem at first try. My teacher Gurumayi Chidvilasananda says that just sitting to meditate is meditation. When you embrace that attitude and allow yourself that time to watch your mind it soon quiets itself. Even if it doesn’t you learn useful things about how the mind works and with faith the mind will still.

Walking is a very traditionally English relaxing thing. Again there is a stilling effect born out of rhythm and regular breath that calms the mind and warms the heart. But in addition there is the passive enjoyment of the scenery. In England that might be classic English countryside in New York there is so much else of passing interest. Often when I go for a long walk through the city streets I click into a mode that feels like I am on vacation and we do have some very nice parks here.

One of my favorite and most powerful recommendations is acupuncture. My acupuncturist Lida Ahmady rescued me from chronic acid reflux about four years ago. I am forever grateful to her. Now acupuncture provides me with a continuity of health and deep rejuvenating rest. I can feel how this ancient Chinese technique balances my energy. Apparently acupuncture restores healthy function of the subtle channels in the body before imbalance or dis-ease is even recognizable in Western medicine.

Another deeply soothing, centering and nourishing self-care practice is Reiki. I studied with a dear friend, Pamela Miles, and I only practice on myself. Whether your Reiki is self-administered or under the practiced hands of a healer it is deliciously calming. You always have your own hands with you though so I recommend finding out about self-practice.

One of the most profound and even enlightening experiences I have enjoyed was at the Nur Ashki Jerrahi Masjid on West Broadway for a night of Sufi whirling. Under the guidance of Sheikha Fariha we chanted and whirled late into the evening. By the end of the night I was ecstatic. Chanting and whirling can definitely lift the mood and under the watchful guidance of a master you may even tap into mystery.

Again on the subject of movement I recently resumed studying Tai Chi. I want to improve my balance but after just a couple of weeks I realize there is so much more going on. Tai Chi is grounding, centering and empowering all things that make me feel better. One good thing out of this disastrous election is the realization that I must take better control of my own state.

I was feeling an insidious creeping intrusion into my psyche earlier this week. It feels like Donald Trump has wormed his way into everything I see, read or hear and it’s making me nauseous. That is why I am contemplating my own self-care management now (a bit late, I admit). I also feel compelled to share it so I’m going to share even the most profound techniques.

On a very esoteric note I have studied now for about five years with Jim Self whose program Mastering Alchemy offers profound and incredibly effective tools for clarifying the mind. All cultures have core mystical teachings, Jim Self’s are the most accessible, comprehensible and practical that I have ever discovered.

A different kind of esotericism is poetry; especially Rumi. Everything Rumi says can feel like a helium balloon that lifts the heart. Rumi and another Sufi mystic Hafiz were so dedicated to the idea of divine love that there was no room for anything else. Contemplating their words pulls the reader out of the ordinary and into an ecstatic state.

This points out the key aspect of the work of state management; our state is our choice. We can decide to dive into the despair of the election result and wallow there or we can decide to choose another happier state. Our health depends on it. The great masters and mystics knew this and often with stories, poems and songs they coached us into more uplifted states to match their own. Very often if I am feeling blue all I need to do is listen to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s Qawwalis and my mood shifts.

On another note a Japanese Zen koan also shifts our state. A perplexed mind wrapped up in the complexities of a koan cannot be worried. The koan is like a nimble finger untying a knot, not necessarily answering a question but opening the mind to a wide-open sky of possibility.

Considering the excessive amount of worrying that many of us are entertaining ourselves and our various bubbles with now I’d like to share a trick from the Mayan culture. Those folks are our Mexican, Guatemalan or Ecuadoran neighbors who will soon be behind the wall. Anyway they have a lovely tradition of a cornhusk doll made to assuage worry. It is a brilliant mind trick; you take the doll tell her your worries and the tuck it under your pillow for the night. Perhaps the doll will just hold them for you so that you can get a good night’s sleep, or perhaps she will solve them for you.

Now I am not an advocate of drinking although many of my friends are but I am an advocate of friends. So like the Irish, Scottish or English get to a local public house and imbibe the sweet nourishment of the company of good friends and possibly even some great music. Don’t talk politics.

Of course another rich cultural tradition is the family dinner. We seem to have too little time to even sit together for dinner these days let alone actually prepare the meal together. But one of my fondest memories is of visiting my sister in law at Christmas and working in the kitchen with her Italian step mother-in-law to make pasta. Yes, our families are complicated multi-cultural, multi-national and sometimes not multilingual. She couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak Italian but we worked together all day and had a great time together. This political environment is separating families mine included so we just don’t talk. The divide is like a language gap but we can still enjoy each other’s company.

Now let me go into another direction entirely. This is for the women; we know that French women have a certain saying, “Bien dans sa peau” meaning, “comfortable in her skin.” Well a personal recommendation to me came from a French friend the trick is to wear exquisite silk lace underwear even under jeans or sweats. So if you need to lift your mood do some lingerie shopping. You might just lift your guy’s mood too.

Simple quick things that can be done to shift state, air and space are flowers, incense, a sage smudge or a candle paired with a short prayer of any denomination or your own design. All cultures use these things, which distill to water, air, fire and earth in the practice of their various devotions. That is the key as far as I can tell; our mental state, our sovereignty and happiness is our own most important work. Each culture has multiple ways of celebrating that inner divinity, higher self, or uplifted state of mind and today here in the US we have the benefit of so many cultural traditions and new experiments to choose from.

The image is a mock up for a new massive flag I am making to celebrate diversity. Please go to www.epluribus.us if you would like to participate. Look at my epluribus blog for details.

Reconstructing E PLURIBUS UNUM During Political Storm Winds

A conversation through community art.

WHAT:

A 60 x 40’ US flag made from fabrics donated by diverse US citizens and immigrants. Large wedge shaped pieces of fabric representing the diversity of people in the US will be loosely laced together in an energetic version of the US flag. It will possibly be the largest flag at Ground Zero when done and will be a flag of great meaning reminding us that we can and do live here together respectfully.

 

WHERE:

4 World Trade Center, 69th floor as part of an art installation including 37 noted street artists including, Ron English, Logan Hicks, Bradley Theodore, WhIsBe, Zimmer, and Rubin 415. The flag will cover almost the entire ceiling of the southern most section of the 38,000 square foot floor.

 

WHO:

The flag is designed and implemented by artist Muriel Stockdale. Sculptor, Jim Hunter will design and construct the stars.

 

WHY:

This flag is an effort to bring awareness to the cultural contributions of Americans who hale from all over the world and live here in this country in harmony together. We need to remind ourselves that our difference of lifestyle, opinion, religion, etc enriches all our lives. In this time of renewed world xenophobia we must remember the founding principles of the United States of America as stated in our motto – E Pluribus Unum meaning Out of Many, One. We want to show how we get it right here.

 

The project is designed to open and continue the conversation about what it means to come to the US and make a life here. People from all cultures live and work together. Many Americans with ancestors from all over the world are the very embodiment of our motto, Out of Many, One. E Pluribus Unum is a prophetic motto that has become so much more meaningful than in the beginning when it referred simply to the initial 13 states and 6 countries that started the United States.

 

HOW:

Muriel invites you to participate in any of these following ways:

  1. Donate fabric – something representative of your culture (nothing precious).
  2. If you donate fabric please include your name or a dedication and a short paragraph about you or your family. We will create a webpage of stories. Tell us something about what living in the US means to you, or who the fabric came from, why it’s meaningful, or what part of your culture to you bring to life in the US.
  3. Help! Muriel will be stitching the panels together beginning in January. Then each of the 132 panels will be tacked to a mesh for hanging. Handy people would be so welcome.
  4. Donate cash or goods. We need sponsors for the various items required – fireproofing, clamps, mesh, cable and more. (Budget still in the works.)

 

WHEN:

We are collecting fabrics now please send to Muriel. We’d like to be done by March so please send soon.

Please contact me here

Responsibility lies within the heart.

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I have been struggling since the results of the election came in to sort out my feelings. That was a terrible night; I have never before in my life felt such agita born solely from events and not from appendicitis or chili peppers. I feel as though something near and dear to me has died. It appears that the very idea of the United States has come untied and E Pluribus Unum will be struck out as our motto. Since that night I have been going through a variety of strong emotions: fear, outrage, shock, indignation, sadness, and worry. This has caused many fruitless arguments inside my head with those I know who favored Trump. I can’t talk to them in person, they are rabid and the disrespect and hate that boils up is just too painful.

So, what to do? Lately I tried acceptance, it is a sublime and very high spiritual practice that is essential for any kind of progress on the path but wow, is it hard to practice right now. One thing I know is that the only thing I do have control of in this situation is my own feelings. This is, admittedly, a tad late to start thinking about now, a full month later. I know better, I am blessed with many spiritual tools and much support.

Why did I wait so long? Why do some people I know choose to wallow in vitriol berating, hating and scorning people they don’t even know like Hillary and Obama? To some extent I think it’s for the same reason I have wallowed in my despair, a terrible reason. A dear spiritual teacher I knew once said this to a large gathering: “You insist on gnawing on your own bones so that you can taste blood to feel alive.” I paraphrase because I don’t remember it exactly but I’m sure I have the essence of the message; we are not content to rest in quiet, to breathe deeply into our heart and settle in the confidence and truth of our own deepest sense of being – the drama outside is too tasty.

This is where the danger lies. People not centered in the heart that knows truth are easily controlled. I need to take back the sovereignty of my own feelings; all of us need to do that. We can strike a balance of being involved and caring without losing our center.

For me the greatest shame of late is the steep slide our culture has taken into disrespect. The disrespect has morphed into hate and blame and usually it is built on baseless lies. This is more evidence of permitting our centered being to be hijacked. There is a discussion in the Baghavad Gita about the nature of war. It describes a justified war versus the unjustified war and the difference is very simple. The justified war or dharmic war is when both sides recognize that they are opposed to their equal. The unjustified war or adharmic war is when either or both sides demonizes, diminishes, vilifies, or negates the humanity of their opponent.

There is an additional layer to this dharma or justification of war though: all wars are fought within our self – pitting our own demons against ourselves in a timeless inner battle. Until we acknowledge that all outside events manifest the condition of the mind and heart inside we will be swept about on the emotional roller coaster of the times. I encourage all to take responsibility for our feelings. I am trying.

Good luck with that I say with all my heart, all my love and with supreme respect.

Uncertainty

It seems as though uncertainty is the prevailing feeling at the moment and it’s making us all edgy and nervous. With Brexit fallout, rancorous politics, terrorist threats and racial tension it sometimes feels hard to breathe. However, uncertainty is where the power lies. In uncertainty all possibilities are still potent. In uncertainty power is shifting, minds are changing, lines are being redrawn, hearts realigned, new ideas forming, and a new future is becoming.

Only with deep breath and in stillness can this wave of change be ridden with grace and certainty. When the outer world is full of uncertainty the only place to turn is inside where true certainty resides. In the outer world is chaos and churning potential, inside where we are quiet and calm lies the ability to choose with certainty when the opportunity to react flies in our face. So when I feel a bit stressed by the day’s news, I try to remember to take a breath or sit on a park bench and watch the sunset.

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Clearview Vineyards

I am delighted to be invited to show at Clearview Vineyards by Frank DenDanto for the month of July. I hope you can come by and see the flags on display. On July 10 from 11:30 to 3PM we will be throwing an opening party with wine tastings included so please come by.

Clearview Vineyard
35 Clearview Lane
Warwick, NY 10990
Ph: 845 651-2838
www.clearviewvineyard.com

Thanks to vintners Frank and Karen Graessle for hosting.

Ubuntu

Ubuntu is a South African word which according to Wikipedia is often translated as “human kindness”. Within the last few months, I have heard of this word and concept a few times. It appears to me that the idea is gaining a badly needed foothold in our consciousness. Last week I heard a piece of a story on NPR about a South African who grew up on a game preserve and watched the wild animals. Specifically, he was fascinated by a crippled elephant that was assisted by all of the other elephants to survive. More and more we hear stories and see videos of animals helping each other; the monkey that revived an electric shocked monkey friend on an Indian train track, the goat that led a blind horse through a forest to the best pasture, a dog that wrapped its front legs around a companion that was hit by a car and dragged it across five lanes to safety somewhere in South America. It brings tears to my eyes to think that “human kindness” can also be seen in “animal kindness” it is our basic nature born of our core being.

Here is the thing. We have been sold a bill of goods that is not true. Darwinism is not the only and last gasp way of being. “Survival of the fittest” is not the best way to live and survive, we all want to thrive not just survive. The idea that survival is a struggle and that we need to compete with each other to win has spawned a brutal winner takes all mentality. Cooperation is really how we survive and thrive but to truly cooperate we must respect each other in our sameness as does the elephant and in our difference as does the goat and the horse.

I was moved this morning when I saw hundreds of people lined up in the hot Florida sun waiting to give blood after this last terrible mass shooting. Those people live the Ubuntu philosophy. Deep inside, I believe, we all feel a profound need to help, to be useful, to care and to share our love. I know I do. The tools out of our societal dis-ease are in the idea of Ubuntu. I am determined to embrace it.

Back on Board

This is going to be a tough post, I’ll say it right off the starting gate. I know it’s been a long time since I posted. I’ve been focusing on finishing and publishing my first novel, “Gabriel’s Flight”. I love the book, it’s been great fun but when will it be good enough, when will it be done. I keep writing and rewriting, trying to get an agent and rewriting again.

It’s been a rough spiral down when it should only be an upward swing. The book is about flying, ascension and touching the sky. Unfortunately, I indulged in a few weeks with the dark night of the soul. I allowed myself to doubt and that led to an awful sense of failure before I even got anywhere. It’s the bugaboo of my life and possibly why I chose the subject, ‘Heaven is Here’ to blog about. I am so afraid of not being good enough, of failing that I really beat myself up and I end up stymied or crippled. A few weeks ago I was a bloody mess. Thank God for Mastering Alchemy and SYDA yoga; practicing self-awareness gave me the awareness, finally, that I was being very indulgent and I am crawling back out of the mire.

Part of the crawl back is to renew my dedication to practicing what works and keeping good company is so important as I have heard from the master. This space is good company, you are good company. I haven’t looked here for a while and I see there are over 650 followers and people looking at the blog every day. Thank you, I won’t let you down again. I hope that you find upliftment here. I promise you there will be more to come.

Let’s Continue with Harmony & Joy

On January 6 the holiday season is officially over, time to wrap up all that joy, that harmony, all that good cheer and bless us everyone once and for all: or is it. January is just the beginning of another long year of opportunities to celebrate our humanity together, to be joyful and in harmony at almost any time.

I love all the holidays, all the moments we as humans create to catch a taste of the sacred and make life special. No culture seems to have a lock on that idea and every culture has a variety of ways in which to attempt to capture the true feelings of special connection to that unnamable something holy. After a lifetime of study, I finally get it, that the taste of divine we look for in those outer celebrations is really inside each of us. I have tasted the profundity of it enough times to know this. I also see that very often it is so much easier to taste that divine presence in the company of others, together in community.

So I invite everyone to seek out the opportunity to share a special moment throughout the year. Find a festival or sacred holiday not of your own lineage to participate in. In January, we still have Epiphany, Armenian Christmas, Orthodox New Year, Tu B’Shevat a Jewish holiday celebrating the New Year for trees and a Punjabi holiday called Lohri involving a bonfire. Lighting a fire is common to many winter celebrations when we are most yearning for light.

Even if there is no holiday available on the horizon we can always commune with each other in respect and love and joy. I just heard last week of a study that determined that people traveling on public transportation absorbed in the bubble of their devices are less happy than those who engage in conversation with their companions. The trip goes faster and leaves the participants more satisfied at the end of it. So have a conversation, laugh, joke and enjoy.

Celebrating each other is more important now that it has ever been before. I am talking about celebrating difference, diversity, strangeness and that which is not our way. So much delight can be found in stretching ourselves to embrace something that we don’t quite understand. As an offering in this light, I invite you to watch this 5-minute short video that I directed a dozen years ago. New York City Spirit is a brief celebration of the diverse ways that New Yorkers connect to God during the course of any ordinary day.

Click here for New York City Spirit