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Archive for the ‘Tree Hugging’ Category

Last night I had a moment. These moments happen from time to time, usually every few months when the buildup of the world’s news stacks on my heart and brain until I just cannot withstand it anymore. I don’t really know what true depression feels like, but in these moments I can taste what I assume it could feel like. Helplessness. And then I feel rage, true rage with the blood boiling and all. And then sadness that we live in a world so full of hatred, and killings, and racism, and selfishness. I lose faith in mankind, which is out of character for me. Part of me wants to completely stop watching / listening to the news or even looking at people’s comments about such on Facebook. I’m sure it would make me feel better. But then, if I’m not paying attention, if I am not participating, then am I turning my back to people who are suffering and if I were in their place would I want the world to turn their back on me? Or ignoring movements and decisions and votes that could potential directly affect me too? When in doubt, cry.

Yes, it was that kind of moment. They happen about twice a year. The kind that calls for chocolate caramel fudge ice cream and an episode of The Cosmos to put things into perspective again.

So I found it very interesting that at yoga tonight, my teacher opened the class talking about this great storm that is blowing our way (San Francisco schools are actually closing tomorrow, yep California). She then spoke about how the world and all the catastrophes (human, environmental, etc) are like the big storm. It’s overwhelming and powerful and we just have to ride it and respect it. Then she read this quote:

“PEACE. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of all of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

She alluded again to the storm, and reminded us that in the middle of every storm is an eye. If we, as individuals, can find inner peace inside of that eye, inside of our storm, inside of our crazy Earthly horrors, then we are making progress. It doesn’t mean turning a blind eye. It just means that inner peace is the true struggle, and perhaps if more people in the world fought for that sort of peace, their own peace, maybe some of the fighting and seriously ugly side of human nature could stop.

So that is what I am going to try. To find the eye somewhere in this uncontrollable storm, and find calmness in my heart there. Hopefully that will somehow in the bigger scope of things and our cosmos, make a difference. At the very least, I think it will help me stay away from the ice cream aisle.

eye_of_storm

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If someone had told me that I would spend a weekend chanting and feeling other women’s breasts in the middle of a forest, I would probably have opted out on the retreat.

Luckily for me, however, I went blindly into the weekend and came out with a whole new perspective.

Returning to Barcelona after a week of spiritual and physical connections at Burning Man was difficult for me. Here in the city people stare at you at all the time, but rarely do they share a look with you, straight in the eyes, with purpose or curiosity. People just stare/glare at you on the metro, in the street, in the cafes. And rarely do they smile when you catch their eyes. It’s really disheartening. It feels very cold.

Barcelona feels at times very disconnected. People feel really disconnected. This whole past month, in post-Burning Man fashion, I have been longing to connect with people, with nature, and with myself. So when someone forwarded me information about a weekend-long women’s retreat in the countryside, I signed up before thoroughly reading what the weekend was to entail. A few days prior to the retreat, I received information from the organizer where she mentioned various items we needed to bring along: a ball of yarn of a color best representing me, beaded jewelry, a long flowy skirt, and a pillow case, amongst other things.

A sudden panic set in. I’m heading out to the wilderness with a bunch of hippies. We’re probably going to get naked, chant and dance in a circle. Oh geez. I read through the retreat information again and also noticed that there was a strong emphasis on mothers. I am interested in midwifery and working with mothers, but I am not a mother.

I called the organizer at almost midnight the night before the retreat and asked her quite frankly, “Did I make a mistake by signing up for this? I’m not sure this is for me.” I explained to her why I signed up (my need for connection with people, nature and myself) and she said yes, of course this retreat was for me. Just come. And don’t worry.

I packed my suitcase. Oddly almost everything I brought, including my ball of yarn, was purple. Like my bedroom wall and the scent of lavender, it is the color that relaxes me and makes me feel positive and sensual. And that’s how I felt all weekend.

We arrived to the old rural house in the Empordà and immediately I felt out of place. First of all, I was the only non-European there. Of the 40 or so women that attended, I was one of the youngest and definitely the poorest in Spanish language skills. Since I arrived with the preconceived idea of a hippie retreat, I also felt very ‘straight’ in the presence of such powerful, spiritual and eccentric women, adorned in their flowy clothes and braided hair. I felt like I was being judged just as much as I was judging.

Everything changed, quickly, once it was time to set up our circle space, this cold stone room where the 40 of us would open up and share with one another for the weekend. We cleaned the space, put down wool blankets on the floor and hung colorful material from the ceiling and walls. A group of women walked into the forest and returned with bundles of flowers, lavender plants and herbs to string around the place. In a matter of 2 hours, the room was warm and comfortable, incredibly inviting. And it was created by us together. As such, the connection began.

I had heard of women’s circles before but I didn’t totally grasp the idea. Common sense told me that we’d sit in a circle and talk, but it was much more than that. Drawing on the wisdom of ancient cultures in an atmosphere of love and support, women’s circles are a safe environment for nourishing honest and deep communication. The women’s circles also provide an opportunity to take note of new beginnings and journeys within our lives. Though the organizers had various prompts and activities planned, often times the circle just led itself. Apart from speaking, we also did various movement and interactive activities.

I was in the presence of such incredible and diverse women, all of whom shared their dreams and their nightmares. I watched, and participated, as 39 women joined forces to aid one woman through a difficult or beautiful revelation. I listened as women told secrets they had never shared before because there was so much trust and understanding hovering in the room. I shared my own experiences with them as well. We laughed and we cried. And we practiced yoga with the sunrise.

Saturday night was our party. We were told to dress like diosas and the organizer arranged for a DJ to come set the mood for our moves! And dance we did, most of the women topless, amidst a wild thunder and lightning storm raging outside. Oddly enough a few friends of mine from Barcelona showed up unexpectedly for what they were told would be a “witch party” in the forest. Ha! Upon seeing them, my initial reaction was one of shock and slight disappointment, since it was suppose to be a women’s spiritual weekend with strangers. Now there were men AND friends of mine? Soon enough I remembered that nothing in my world is ever a coincidence. Everything always happens for reasons. What could have been a big jolt in my women’s weekend in the end was a beautiful and unexpected surprise. The little bit of male energy presence was gratefully welcomed and, if anything, it only reinforced my new strengthened sense of femininity, which as it turns out is very fun to share 😉

Speaking of breasts, yes, we did massage each others’ boobies. After dedicating a good half hour to our own breasts with a homemade oil, someone suggested that we massage each other. A red flag went up for me and I almost jumped out of that circle immediately. But I did not. Because quite frankly, for me there was nothing sexual about it whatsoever. These were mothers and grandmothers. It was a powerful moment for me because I was paired up with an older woman who only had one breast, due to breast cancer. Earlier that day she told the group that she had no sensation in her removed breast for many years and only recently had she developed some feeling in it again. So imagine both of our delight as I massaged an area that once caused her so much pain and that she was only now starting to appreciate again. She almost purred and it felt so nice to bring joy to this woman in such a simple way. There were quite a lot of giggles and little jokes amongst the women. I don’t think this is something any of us had really done before and we were all clearly aware that it was half-amazing and half-strange. But I have to say, I have a whole new respect for my breasts now.

The focus of the weekend was about accompaniment. How to accompany someone else, and how to be accompanied. As the retreat was organized by women that aid other women through pregnancies and birth, this made sense. We did some interesting exercises. I always thought I was much better at receiving, but I learned this weekend that perhaps I’m actually more of a giver in certain situations. There were some extremely uncomfortable moments when I had to be passive and let someone give to me. I wanted to have control. As my partners in the exercises approached me, I felt a huge wall and would go rigid. And they could sense it and tried to respect my space. It was strange. I’ve always considered myself fairly open, but as I’ve been told by various strangers during my travels and by plenty of men, I am actually quite guarded. This weekend really helped me see that and, more importantly, taught me how to let down my guard and feel comfortable with someone crossing over my protective border.

At the close of the last day we performed a healing ceremony for a woman who has breast cancer. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life. The woman, a mother of two gorgeous children, sat in the middle of our circle with her shirt off. Two women sat with her, holding her hand, while the rest of us passed around a bottle of oil and ‘blessed’ it each in her own way. All the while repeating some sort of healing chant. It lasted a good twenty minutes. And I started to cry. And then I started to bawl. Whatever I had kept in during the whole weekend just started to flow out and I couldn’t stop! The women sitting on each side of just held my hand and let me cry. And it felt wonderful.

I am so glad that my own prejudices and preconceptions did not impede me from attending this retreat. I learned so much from these women, and about myself through their eyes, words and contact. This weekend has reinforced that I do want to work with women and mothers, and I do want to help people heal. It feels amazing to know I’m moving towards the right path and I am glowing from the inside out.

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I think it’s safe to say that I’ve lived through some pretty crazy and remarkable experiences, but few compare to Burning Man. I cannot define Burning Man. But to set the scene a bit for those unfamiliar with the event, 50,000 people meet in the desert of Nevada to camp in a creative, communal and dusty environment for one week. There are art installations and djs. Pimped out bike riding and topless teeter-totters. The only things available for sale in this city are ice and coffee. Besides that money is prohibited. Lots of love and very very very little clothing during the day and tons of fur at night. 1,500 art cars that you can hop on and off to ride through the desert sands. And on the last days they burn a huge wooden structure of a man and a temple.

Got it? Probably not. It’s just too hard to explain. I think each person has his or her own experience and I don’t feel the need to classify or reduce the experience into a conceptual heading. What I can do, however, is share my own experience of Burning Man with you.

The best way I can describe my experience of Burning Man is by comparing it to the blind man scene in the movie Amelie. I imagine myself feeling something similar to the blind man when Amelie spontaneously takes his arm and leads him through the streets of Paris describing all the things around him he can’t see. For me Burning Man was all about the random acts of kindness from strangers. And how these acts and these strangers create a new sense of clarity. And not to mention an overwhelming, breathtaking rapture of the senses. It was just a moment. A whirlwind in time. But after it was done my soul glowed new colors and I’ve spent the last week with eyes closed trying to relive it all, to somehow keep those memories, sights, sounds and tastes all present.

Bliss: my favorite art piece and the perfect portrayal of how Burning Man makes me feel

For some people Burning Man is a giant rave, an art festival, or a hippie thing. But for me, Burning Man is simply generosity and kindness. I should now mention that it was not just kindness from strangers. It was also extreme kindness and goodwill from amazing friends of mine that wanted to make my first Burn experience comfortable and memorable. Without them I would not have been able to fly to the event from Spain in the first place. Without them I would not have had a tent or sleeping bag to take 1-2 hour power naps every evening/morning (a dj set starting at 10am keeps you from getting any more sleep than that). Without them I would not have had wheels to move freely around the playa, one of my most favorite things to do. Without them (and their spare fur coats and leg warmers) I would have frozen my ass off. Without them I would have completely forgotten to eat. Without them, I would have cried and laughed alone.

I am so grateful. I went to Burning Man with the idea to actively participate in the gifting tradition. But once there I realized it was not possible. All I could do was soak it all in. I was so overwhelmed by it all. All I could do was say thank you. Next year I plan to be much more participative and will do my best to help a virgin Burner. I want to be not just the blind man, but also Amelie.

Not only did I see shooting stars every night (real ones), but according to the stranger that now calls himself my husband, shooting stars shoot out of me in broad daylight. Although he was drunk and licked my witness post-(fake) nuptials on the 4th floor of an art structure, I think he was on to something. Internally I was glowing and glittering. And the beauty of Burning Man is that you let your insides out. I was lucky to share some of these shooting stars externally with friends.

photo by Dave Adams

To make this particular event more significant for me, I turned thirty during Burning Man. I cannot imagine a better way to bring on this new decade than wearing a costume and dancing beneath the stars in a neon-lit desert with some of my closest friends. And not to mention watching the sunrise over the desert horizon with my best buddies sitting directly above me, their furry feet swinging from the rafter as I tried to hide out below them in the embrace of a guy that encouraged me to let go and be myself. He may actually deserve his own separate blog entry. Maybe he’ll get one. We’ll see.

Now let’s talk about sex. I live in Spain, a country where sexuality is pretty open and nudity is normal. We go to topless and sometimes nudist beaches and people make out for hours on street corners with zero shame. But Oh My God, I’ve never been in such a sexually charged environment in my life as Black Rock City, Nevada. The combo of really hot people wearing little to no clothing, mixed with the tradition of leaving all inhibitions at the door, made for a seriously hot and tempting gathering of free-spirited folk. I behaved fairly well, all things considered. But I still feel some of this energy dripping from my pores and can’t help but look around to see if someone’s ready to lap it up. I wonder when it will wear off? Until then, watch out Barcelona. This Burning (Wo)Man is on her way home!

My final anecdote about Burning Man concerns hula hooping. Burning Man has a way of making hula hoops stay up around your waist. I’ve never been able to hula hoop, no matter how hard I’ve tried over the years. But at Burning Man on my 30th birthday, I just picked one up and went for it. I remember screaming, “Holy crap! How is it staying up?” I invented the side-crab crawl, running horizontally back and forth all the while still incorporating the hoop. I almost died of laughter. Over the days I sought out hula hoops everywhere. They began to fall less and I learned to dance a bit and move my arms around more freely. There was no magic involved, but it sums up Burning Man perfectly for me. If you stop worrying about and over thinking something or trying too hard, it usually just works itself out. Being that I showed up to Burning Man with a huge bucket full of worries, I’d say this was my biggest lesson learned.

I was given the playa nickname, Hula Hoop. And I think it’s the perfect name to explain how I felt out there. Playful and sexy. Worry-free and in constant state of surprise and awe. My goal is to buy a hula hoop in Barcelona and to practice in the park. And not necessarily to learn new tricks or because I want to grow armpit hair. Just for no other reason than to remember how to be completely free and smile uncontrollably.

Thank you to my friends for making my first experience and my birthday so memorable. I am SO grateful. This is just the beginning…

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As a little girl, I used to play naked in the sprinklers of our big front yard. Water balloon fights were a must at every birthday party, along with Slip N’ Slides and water guns. On the hot summer days, it was excellent to simply play in the hose while completing the chore of watering the lawn and flower beds. I was a fortunate little girl.

Sadly, I do not believe that our children and grandchildren will have the same good fortune. Our clean water supply is in a dire state, and although my fellow Americans and Europeans may not feel the (water) pressure quite yet, I do not doubt that they soon will. Believe it or not, there is a massive world water shortage. But as always, these types of world dilemmas never quite seem to hit home, until they literally hit home.

When I first moved to Spain, it was hard to feel comfortable in bathrooms. The water level in the toilets was very shallow, which sometimes causes “splashback.” The water pressure in the showers was more like a drip dip. And bathtubs were designed for midgets. It is doubtful that these bathrooms were designed to conserve water, but regardless I have become accustomed to using less water by default.

Then I visited Africa, where we were given a bucket of cold water to shower with. At first I thought that a full cleansing job would require more than the given amount, but soon discovered that a bucket was totally sufficient. The children shared their buckets of water and the soapy water was then used to clean the patios. Purified drinking water came in bags, rather than bottles, also creating less waste.

And then there was Mexico. I lived in Oaxaca, a brightly colored colonial town notorious for its water supply shortage. We had running water, but that did not mean an endless supply of water. On each and every rooftop there was a large black tank full of water. That was it. Once you ran dry, you had to wait, sometimes up to five days, in order to get more water for your house. We ran out almost once a week or every two weeks. So once again, not as much by default as for necessity, I learned little ways to conserve the precious water supply (see list at bottom of this blog). Mexicans are resourceful. And they, along with the rest of developing countries that have been forced to live with little of the world’s resources, despite the fact that they provide many of those same resources, will be the ones that triumph when the well really does go dry.

At the end of my trip in Mexico I headed up to el norte, the US, to visit family and friends in California. Although it was nice to know that I could shower without running out of water half way through, I was flabbergasted by the use of water there. The toilets are filled almost to the rim (just imagine how many times a day one household toilet is flushed. It’s a LOT of water!). The water pressure in the showers is like a jacuzzi spa (fabulous, but at the same time wasting gallons of water). Dishwashers only 1/3 the way full ran. And though California is technically a desert, all those neatly trimmed, perfectly green lawns and their automatic watering systems that run sometimes twice a day.

Out of impulse, or like a deep guttural groan, I acted. Perhaps not in the best of ways, but I’m telling you – it was instinctual. While my mom was sweetly doing the dishes after an awesome meal, I noticed how the water was on full blast and just kept running while she chatted or filled the dishwasher. My arm flew out from my waist, with a mind of its own, and slammed shut the faucet, turning off the water. My mom gave me a curious look, turned the water back on and continued. And then I did it again, much to the disgust on my mother’s face!

Needless to say, my reaction was not well thought out. Nor helpful. I really do not want to become one of those green activists that force their environmental will on people, because that simply annoys. That said, I cannot keep quiet either. I desperately want to spread awareness in a more informative way, to show people how easy and NECESSARY it is to start considering our limited resources. And then let people make more informative decisions. Imagine if the water was shut off in San Diego for a week. Would people know what to do? It would cause a huge crisis. We are not prepared, because we have never felt the threat.

So, rather than banging shut your faucet with my fist of will, here are some friendly recommendations of simple ways you can help reduce your water usage. Not only will this save on your water bill, and not only will it help reserve the small amount of water that remains, but the day that we really do find ourselves in a water crisis, you will be much more prepared and knowledgeable about how to get by on less.

10 Water Saving Ideas that Regan Recommends =)

1. Brushing your teeth: You can simply turn off the running water while the brush is in your mouth. Same goes for shaving your beard!

2. Buckets of fun: Buckets are amazing. They can be used for many different purposes, mainly to collect water that would otherwise get wasted down a drain. (i.e. while you wait for your shower to warm up, a bucket can catch all that cold water that makes you want to shiver, or you can fill up a bucket rather than your kitchen sink when you wash the dishes). Once you have your filled buckets, they can be used to flush the toilet, or to mop the floors.

3. It’s raining, it’s pouring!: Water falls to us from the sky. Catch it. You can collect rainwater from the drainage systems off of your rooftops. Or in buckets on your balconies or backyards. This water is excellent for watering your plants, as it lacks the minerals and chlorine, etc in tap water from your household faucets. In nature, plants live off of rain. And nature is smart. Let’s copy her!

4. Cacti grow in the desert: Look up the local flora and fauna native to where you are living. Those types of plants will flourish in your garden, and will save you lots of money on care and water. My Auntie Nani in San Diego recently pulled out her entire green lawn and plants and built the most amazing ecosystem of colorful and diverse succulents (and some pretty amazing rocks). She also has an outdoor shower with buckets that collect the water and she uses that to water her plants.

If you do have a lawn to water, try watering during early morning hours or in late afternoon when temperatures are the lowest. This reduces losses from evaporation (ie, you use less water and your lawn gets healthier).

5. If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down: I’m back on the topic of toilets. Sorry. It’s just that you really do not realize how much water is wasted by flushing. They now make toilets with two different buttons (one for “yellow” and one for “brown”). You can also use the Buckets are fun! method. Or…old school style – just don’t flush unless it is necessary! A little pee in the toilet won’t hurt anyone, unless you have eaten asparagus. Perhaps then you could flush.

6. Showers: If possible, take shorter showers. Or if you are like me, and love to sit under hot water for a good ten minutes, than perhaps consider replacing you shower head with an ultra-low-flow version. You can also turn off the water when you shave your legs or soap up.

7. Dishwashers / Washing machines: are very handy and can in fact save water (as opposed to hand washing), but ONLY when it is run when full. If you live alone, perhaps it is better to hand wash your one plate, one fork and pot rather than run a full cycle.

When washing dishes by hand, fill one sink or bucket with soapy water. Quickly rinse under a slow-moving stream from the faucet.

Same goes for washing machines (try to fill it up rather than wash one pair of jeans at a time).

8. Houston, we’ve got a problem: Check faucets and pipes for leaks. A small drip from a worn faucet washer can waste 20 gallons of water per day. Larger leaks can waste hundreds of gallons.

9. Rubber ducky, you’re the one!: If you have more than one toddler, try bathing them together so you don’t have to fill up the bathtub multiple times a day. Besides, it’s more fun to play with bubbles in company (this also applies to adults…)!

10. Say it, don’t spray it!: Spread awareness. Tell your friends. SHOW your friends how YOU save water. And let them know how EASY it really is! Each little drop does matter (try not having water in your house for three days – you really learn to appreciate it!).

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