A little more than nine years ago I wrote one of my favorite posts: “Hitching Wagons to Stars.” It wasn’t particularly well read. It didn’t garner numerous comments or shares, but it’s one of my favorites because it speaks to a recurring dynamic in my life: shining.

The phrase “Hitch your wagon to a star” comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay Civilization. In it he talks about partnering with the natural world to create something new. His quote though has since morphed to mean “Always aspire to do great things,” and then “Try to succeed by forming a relationship with someone who is already successful.”

I’ve frequently taken the latter approach myself, trying to sidle up to someone else who is famous or successful. If we’re using the wagon and star analogy, I usually envision myself as the wagon and never the star. A part of me believes I can’t shine without the presence of someone else. I want someone else’s light to rub off on me. That means I cross my fingers Chris Evans will like an Instagram post where I thank him for playing Captain America, or that Elizabeth Gilbert will thumbs up a blogpost where I mention her. And when they don’t, I feel first sad and then angry because my master plan was thwarted. My master plan being if someone famous notices me, then I’ll finally achieve what I’ve wanted all along: to be a star.

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We can all be one of these. Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

I don’t want to be a star in the traditional sense – I can’t act and while I have a nice voice, it’s not Grammy-award winning. I don’t even necessarily want to be an influencer because it sounds exhausting to post something fun and interesting and beautiful on Instagram every day. But I still want to be a star, which for me means writing a bestselling book and having a large swathe of people care about what I have to say. I know numerous people already care about what I have to say, for which I’m grateful, but I want there to be more of them.

These days what I’m coming to understand is I don’t have to rely on someone else to give me what I want. I don’t need to be retweeted or reshared to propel me to stardom, which is perhaps why it hasn’t happened. I’m not doing myself any favors by viewing myself as a wagon instead of a star. I can shine brightly on my own. We all can. We are each of us stars in our own right – some smaller, some larger, but still a star.

I dream of a world where we realize we don’t need someone else in order to shine. A world where we don’t limit ourselves and what we’re capable of. A world where we understand we don’t need to hitch our wagon to a star because we can be our own star.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

This past week I canceled a trip to Washington, D.C. I had planned for later this month. Way back in April when I originally intended to go, I figured by the fall surely everything with COVID-19 would be sorted. That we’d shelter in place for a few months and then we’d be able to go about our business as usual.

As you know, that didn’t happen and it’s quite likely the rest of the year will continue in the same fashion it already has. Canceling my trip was somehow the watershed moment for me as I’ve realized how much this year has taken from all of us. I’ve cried so many times this week. I’ve grieved my inability to travel abroad as well as domestically. I’ve grieved how I can’t be closer than 6 feet to my friends without worry. I’ve grieved that plans and parties have all been scuppered. This year has been rough.

It’s not only COVID-19, it’s all of it. It’s Black Lives Matter, it’s climate change, it’s Donald Trump and the circus he’s ringleading. It’s fear of the future as well as fear of the present. I watch television shows and movies filmed before the pandemic and I feel wistful and envious of life before. When we took physical presence for granted. When we shook each other’s hands without a second thought. When we didn’t feel alarmed every time someone coughed. I’m sad. I’m really sad.

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I miss sharing moments like these with someone else. Photo by Matt Heaton on Unsplash

I posted on Instagram that I wish I could pull a Rip Van Winkle and wake up when the world is different. It’s true, I do. And at the same time as often happens with grief, the world becomes sharper so I’m recognizing what I truly care about. For me, this year is clarifying how much I miss my family and want to spend more time with them. It’s also clear to me if I don’t leave my bubble every three to four months, if I don’t travel somewhere, I lose my freaking mind. And because I can’t actually do that in the way I’d like, I’m dreaming more. I’m using Pinterest for the first time ever creating a board of all the places I want to visit. I haven’t made a list like that since high school.

For other people, the pandemic is providing clarity in terms of their living situations. They’re moving apartments, houses, states, even countries. They’re recognizing they don’t actually like where they live and doing something about it. The same is true with relationships: People are either breaking up or they’re settling down. This pandemic is shaking us all up like a snow globe, which has its pros as well as cons.

Something else this period is highlighting for me is how precious time is. It’s the commodity we can’t have back. I don’t particularly miss restaurants or going to shows. I miss lying on the grass next to someone else and watching the clouds go by, calling out the different shapes they make. I miss reading a book on the couch while my feet are brushing against my sister’s.

As a friend of mine says, this year is refocusing our attention on simple pleasures. Instead of worrying so much about achieving, progressing, and doing, in the U.S. anyway we’re slowing down, reconnecting with family and friends, and remembering what truly matters. In case it wasn’t clear, what truly matters is you.

I dream of a world where we remember what’s most important. A world where we value our relationships and connections over material goods. A world where we cherish the moments we have with one another as we recognize how finite they truly are.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

What is Real?

I find it telling that when Trump announced he has COVID-19, many people assumed he was lying. I realize that’s because he’s a compulsive liar, but I think it also speaks to the larger milieu we find ourselves in – we don’t know what’s true anymore. And what’s so chilling is the inability to distinguish truth from untruth is by design as I learned recently from watching the documentary/drama The Social Dilemma. I’m going to quote from the film so if you’d rather be surprised, stop reading here.

An idea I hadn’t considered before watching The Social Dilemma is people are making money off of disinformation not only on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, but also the supposed repository of truth, Google. If you google “climate change,” you’ll get different answers depending on where you live and what you searched for previously. That’s scary. It means we don’t have shared reality with one another anymore, as we’ve seen, and that creates division. There are “sheeple” and “idiots” and “people who haven’t done their own research.” There are people who’ve been “red pilled” and are “still living in the matrix.” How did we get here?

The truth is boring and doesn’t encourage engagement, whether that’s clicks or likes or comments or reshares. Misinformation spreads about six times faster on Twitter than the truth, according to a study from MIT. If Twitter cares about increasing the number of users, of getting more eyeballs to view an ad, what incentive does it have for shutting down fake news? It doesn’t. The same is true of Facebook and also YouTube. What’s even scarier is it’s easy to get brainwashed on YouTube. If you watch one conspiracy video, YouTube will recommend another and then another and then another until you’re convinced that the world really is flat. That’s exactly what happened to basketball player Kyrie Irving. He publicly said the Earth was flat and then later apologized, offering this explanation: “You click a YouTube link and it’s like how deep does the rabbit hole go? You start telling all your friends, ‘Did you see that? Watch this video.’”

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The Earth, as seen from space. Photo by NASA on Unsplash

We don’t know what’s true because there’s so much disinformation flying around and it’s easy to fall for fake news. I know I have. For instance, when the pandemic first hit, I saw a picture floating around saying dolphins returned to the Venice canals and repeated that to a friend. However, it wasn’t true – the picture came from the coast of Sardinia. Yes, sharing that fake news didn’t hurt anyone, but we’re not always so lucky. Early investor in Facebook Roger McNamee said, “If you want to control the population of a country, there’s never been a more effective tool than Facebook.”

Y’all. That’s scary. And we’ve seen this already in the U.S. with the role Facebook played in the 2016 elections. It also happened in Myanmar with the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims. The U.N. said Facebook had a “determining role” in whipping up anger against the minority group.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, all of it, are directly affecting our lives: how we think, how we vote, and also how we behave. That’s a lot of power in the hands of companies that are unregulated. Clearly the tech giants need government oversight but also, we can mitigate some of the effects by turning off all notifications on our phones so that we’re not constantly checking them. A former YouTube employee also said don’t watch YouTube’s recommendations and instead search for and choose videos yourself.

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Turn off notifications on these babies. Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

Lastly, I think something needs to be said about the mind itself. Many spiritual people think they know “the truth” because they meditate, they’re tapping into their intuition, they’re aligned with the source of all knowledge. According to my spiritual philosophy, there is such a thing as immutable truth, as absolute truth. That “thing,” or entity really, is Brahma, which is a combination of the consciousness that pervades the universe as well as the creative force that pervades the universe. Everything else is a relative truth.

What is often missing among spiritual people is the understanding the mind has layers, or filters. This post is already quite long so I won’t go into it today but even without launching into an in-depth explanation this makes sense. We filter everything we hear, everything we learn through the lens of our perception. We compare it with what we’ve heard before, what we’ve been exposed to, what we’ve experienced in the past. All of which is to say we’re not imbibing a perfect, unadulterated truth.

The best I think any of us can do right now is practice some humility and recognize we may not actually know everything, that our sources are flawed, and we don’t know the absolute truth. The best any of us can do right now is to cultivate healthy doubt and skepticism while also recognizing some things are truer than others: for instance, the Earth is round.

I dream of a world where we realize lies spread faster than the truth. A world where we realize the truth is relative and can change depending on time and space. A world where we leave room for being wrong while also recognizing there is such a thing as consensus reality. A world where we seek to find that consensus and remember some companies profit off of sowing disinformation.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

I have to admit I’m feeling rather spiteful and vindictive. I’m pissed off at the hypocrisy of Mitch McConnell and his ilk regarding replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s justice seat. I’m livid Breonna Taylor’s murderers – Brett Hankison, Myles Cosgrove, and Jonathan Mattingly – were not punished sufficiently for their crimes. I’m angry and frankly scared that Donald Trump will refuse to cede power if he’s voted out. Some vigilante justice sounds mighty appealing right now. However, I also remind myself what my spiritual philosophy says about justice.

First off, it’s a law of nature that for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Actions have consequences, even if they’re not expressed right away. For instance, my spiritual teacher was on a walk with someone when they passed by the house of a Brahmin who just died. My spiritual teacher told his companion:

“Though this man was a prominent member of the Brahmin community, he was not a pious man as befits a Brahmin. In fact, he was a sinful and greedy man who never reflected on his misdeeds or repented for them. He was full of caste vanity and arrogance. Throughout his life he treated the lower castes with scorn. What will be his reward for his pride and vanity? He will be reborn as a dog. If he wanders into a gathering of Brahmins, will they not treat him as an untouchable and drive him away, just as he did to others in this life?”

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This picture felt like a good mix of imprisonment but also love. Photo by insung yoon on Unsplash

Actions have consequences, for better or for worse. What I notice in telling this story is some glee. My response is, “Good. You got what you deserved.” But sharing that I also feel a pinprick of discomfort because it’s mean-minded. I want to see people punished for their crimes but my spiritual teacher also says we don’t have the right to punish someone we do not love, and furthermore, the amount of punishment meted out must not exceed the amount of love we feel. Yikes. Why is that?

If life is about love, about seeing the divine in everyone, it makes sense that all actions are to be taken with that spirit. If I punish someone out of spite, it creates a feeling of vindictiveness. My mind degrades and the person punished also likely feels resentment. Instead, punishment should be corrective in nature. My spiritual teacher also says, “If a system of corrective measures is introduced, criminals, whether they were deeply involved in the crime or not, will have no reason to complain against anyone. Although there may be flaws in the judgment, it will not harm them in any way. A person who is definitely guilty will benefit from a system of corrective measures, and even a person who is not guilty will benefit from such a system.”

I know I’m being challenged right now to maintain my feelings of love, but what softens my heart is thinking power-hungry people are sick. Those who don’t care one iota about anyone other than themselves are mentally ill. Those who seek to divide others, to promote inferiority and superiority are unwell. As a society, we must take corrective measures – I’m not suggesting we throw our hands up in the air and excuse anyone’s behavior – but can we continue to see God in everyone, especially people we don’t like? That’s the practice anyway.

I dream of a world where we realize the universe will restore balance without any input from us. A world where we recognize actions have consequences for better or for worse. A world where we try to correct others instead of punishing them. A world where we see God in everyone, even people we want to punish.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

I feel a little discombobulated. On the one hand, it’s Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and a time for celebrating. I am celebrating – I’m celebrating that the sky has cleared, I can see the sun again. I’m grateful for my friends, family, and community. I’m taken aback but also profoundly grateful that my business is thriving. There’s a lot to be grateful for.

On the other hand, I’m deeply troubled by what’s happening in the world: the rise in fascism, environmental catastrophes, and oh yeah, a global pandemic, which has not only killed numerous people, but has also led to unemployment and food insecurity. There’s a lot to be concerned about.

I’m reminded here this is always how life has been. Joy is frequently mixed with sorrow and we see that even in Rosh Hashanah services. There’s a part called the Mourner’s Kaddish where the entire congregation holds space for those who have lost loved ones during the past year. People call out the names of loved ones who have died so everyone can bear witness to their grief.

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There can be beauty even amidst desolation. Photo by Nikola Johnny Mirkovic on Unsplash

As someone who is prone to black and white thinking, I presume my emotions will operate the same way: I’ll feel ecstatically joyful without any hint of sorrow. But again, that’s not true. This year as all of us are bombarded with one terrible piece of news after another, I continue to pursue joy and cling to it like a buoy in the sea.

I’m reminded here of a poem by Jack Gilbert titled “A Brief For The Defense” that seems especially relevant:

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

As we are all grappling with all the injustice in the world, all the destruction, all the grief, I encourage you to also have the stubbornness to accept your gladness. To find joy when and where you can because the world isn’t one way or another – it’s both, it’s all of it, it’s everything. I’m not advocating spiritual bypassing or whitewashing the horrors in the world. No. Instead I’m advocating feeling your feelings, recognizing it’s true life can be terrible, but also recognizing it’s true that there are babies laughing, flowers blooming, and lovers dancing. That life can also be joyful even in the most horrendous of circumstances. Life, and people, are complicated like that.

I dream of a world where we embrace delight. A world where we recognize joy can be mixed with sorrow. A world where we find the beauty in the world as a tonic to our hearts, reminding us there’s more to life than tragedy. A world where we celebrate as we grieve.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

When I’m going through a tough time, or the world around me is challenging like it is now, I don’t derive comfort from hearing, “This, too, shall pass.” I know some people do and I’m glad, but for me, when I hear, “This, too, shall pass” my response is, “When? Can you give me a timeframe? An estimate even?” But no one really knows, except for some stellar psychics, but I’ve never met any of those. If you have, can you give them my number? I have some questions.

Instead, what comes to mind right now is a quote that is misattributed to Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Because honestly, what other choice is there? When life is grim, when smoke is so thick you can’t see across the street, when the sun is blocked from view and you think you’re on another planet the sky is so orange, what do you do? You keep putting one foot in front of the other over and over again until things change. And the only way I know how to do that is to borrow from another cliché prevalent in 12-step communities: one day at a time.

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Not a fan of the smoke, but this is also an expression of Spirit. Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

I read an article in the Atlantic recently by Molly Jong-Fast that sums up this principle beautifully. She wrote:

Look, I’m as obsessed with “getting back to normal” as everyone else is, but I try not to worry about when that will be possible. I’ll lose it if I think in terms of hanging on until there’s a vaccine. Some people may find it helpful to tell themselves, It’s not forever. It’s just a few months. In my experience, though, when there’s no firm deadline for the end of an ordeal—and no one really knows when the pandemic will end—it’s better to focus on getting through the day. Life isn’t lived two weeks from now, or two months from now. Life exists in the moment and nowhere else.

Life exists in the moment and nowhere else. That means I can’t think about when it will rain, when I can open my windows again, when I can step outside without an n99 mask designed to filter out smoke. Instead I can focus on the moment, like the carrot I’m munching on while I type this, or my flowers swaying in the breeze.

I can also get quiet and touch the inner calm, the inner strength that lies within me and within everyone. The point of my spiritual practice is not to run away from the world, to search for a better, happier place, but instead to recognize the divinity present here, now. My spiritual practice affirms over and over again that I am an expression of an infinite, loving consciousness. That this body, this mind, this world is an expression of Spirit both beautiful and terrible.

My spiritual teacher says “God” is an acronym that stands for Generator, Operator, and Destroyer. That means God is not only the beauty in the world but also the ugly. And the reality is the cycle of life is a never-ending rhythm of creation, operation, and destruction. I don’t like it, I don’t wish for it, I still act responsibly with regards to my life and the lives of others, but can I have some perspective? Can I remember that God is here, too, in this hell? That’s the work anyway.

I dream of a world where we keep going in the most hellacious of circumstances. A world where we continue to take each day as it comes doing the next right action and then the next. A world where we remember God is not only the wonderful, but the terrible. A world where we realize that in the horrible, Spirit is there, too.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

I keep thinking about boundaries both because of what’s happening in my personal life and also in the world.

This week a woman told me I need better boundaries. Even thinking about her comment I notice anger rising up in me because I want to say, “Screw you lady! You have NO IDEA how much work I’ve done around boundaries!” which is true. I’ve come a long way. It’s not that I was ever a doormat, but it’s fair to say I wasn’t far removed from one. I often said “yes” when I wanted to say “no” because it was easier to acquiesce to someone else than stand up for myself. It was easier to sacrifice my needs and wants to keep the peace.

However, there comes a point where if your mouth doesn’t say no, your body will. Maybe you’ll get sick and that will give you an excuse to skip the party you originally said you’d attend. Or you could develop a more serious health condition. That’s the whole premise of the book When the Body Says No by Dr. Gabor Maté. He makes the case that stress and emotions play a role in diseases such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and multiple sclerosis. I certainly found his premise to be true with me. Because I overextended myself, my body eventually said, “Nope. Can’t do it anymore!” These days I’m more cautious with how I spend my energy.

Am I still learning about boundaries? Yes. Do I still regularly give more of myself than is wise for my body? Yes. But that’s OK because boundaries happen in degrees. They are learned and practiced – they’re not a switch that get turned on or off. They’re more like a faucet that can run at full power or at a trickle.

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Boundaries can run at a trickle or full blast. Photo by Mukesh Sharma on Unsplash

That reminder about boundaries operating in degrees seems relevant right now as the U.S. celebrates Labor Day. The holiday came about because in the late 1800s, the average person worked 12-hour days, seven days a week. Not only adults, but children as young as 5 worked in mills, factories, and mines. On top of that, working conditions were not safe, there was insufficient access to fresh air, and limited sanitary facilities and breaks. People started protesting and were killed by the police during those protests, but eventually the unions were successful and working conditions changed.

We have a lot to be grateful for this Labor Day, and at the same time, there’s still room for improvement. For instance, last year the news reported Amazon workers were peeing in bottles because they were scared to take bathroom breaks. And they’re not the only one: Tyson Foods workers admitted to being denied bathroom breaks or mocked for even asking, according to an Oxfam report. The result? Many Tyson workers wore adult diapers to work.

I don’t mention these two examples purely to horrify you but rather to ask how much do you value your own life and the lives of others? Enough to change your shopping habits? I have. For the past few years, I’ve boycotted Amazon – not perfectly because there are some things only Amazon sells, but where possible I spend my money elsewhere. And look, I know they’re super convenient, but every little bit helps – canceling a Prime membership, looking further afield for purchases – it all adds up. What would our world look like if collectively we said, “No, it’s not OK to treat people like robots, to risk their lives, and deny them dignity”? If history is any indication, not only can it be done, but it also makes life better for everyone, as evidenced by those of us in the U.S. celebrating a three-day weekend.

I dream of a world where we set and maintain boundaries. A world where we understand the importance of saying no. A world where we realize boundary setting happens in degrees. A world where we celebrate what we’ve accomplished and recognize we also may have more room to grow.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Lately I’ve been thinking about fairness, or rather its opposite. How it’s not fair that people we love die. Or that fascist leaders are calling the shots. Or that the world literally and figuratively burns so a few companies can increase their profits. It’s not fair.

If you’re anything like me, in response to, “It’s not fair,” someone invariably says, “Life isn’t fair,” as if that makes the situation better. The inherent message behind “life isn’t fair” is “deal with it.” But what if I don’t want to deal with it? What if I don’t want to toughen up and accept the unfairness of it all? What if I’d rather curl into a ball and whimper like a wounded animal? Can I do that instead?

This year has been absolutely gut-wrenching for numerous reasons. NUMEROUS. I’m over this year. I want something new, and yet wanting isn’t enough. As they say, faith without works is dead. I’ve also heard that pain is the price of admission into a new life. Ouch. Say it ain’t so, but it is.

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Our tickets are metaphorical. Photo by Mak on Unsplash

When I think about creating something new – art, a business, a life even – there’s often an element of pain, or at least hardship. Rarely is the creation process smooth sailing from start to finish. There are usually obstacles to overcome, hurdles to clear. Maybe this period we’re in, maybe this year, is the admission price we’re paying for a new way of life.

It seems to me humanity is being forced to change on numerous fronts. It’s become clear we cannot maintain the status quo because doing so equals death and destruction. Change isn’t easy, and frankly sometimes it sucks, but I have to believe everything we’re enduring is leading to something better. It’s the only way I can keep going, to continue putting one foot in front of the other. I’m also choosing to believe my spiritual teacher who said, “[A] bright future awaits you. Your future is glorious, your future is luminous, your future is effulgent.”

He describes himself as an incorrigible optimist and also said, “Human civilization now faces the final moment of a critical juncture. The dawn of a glorious new era is on the one side, and the worn-out skeleton of the past on the other. Humanity has to adopt either one or the other. You are the spiritual soldiers; you are the worshippers of life divine. Hence, I call upon you to adorn this crimson dawn deluged with glorious light. Victory is surely yours.”

We’re not on the other side of the fight yet. The world remains unfair, but slowly, in certain places, we’re moving in that direction. For instance, in Portland companies must pay a 10% tax surcharge if their CEO earns 100 to 250 times more than the median-paid worker. That number jumps to 25% if the CEO makes 250 times more than the median-paid worker. The law only applies to Portland, but other places like San Francisco are considering similar laws. Laws like these are a start and show me if we keep striving for a fairer society eventually it will happen.

I dream of a world that’s fair and just. A world that considers what’s in the best interest for the planet as a whole. A world where we realize the impact of our actions and adjust accordingly. A world where we understand sometimes pain is the price of admission into a new life.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

I can’t speak for everywhere, but life in the Bay Area is pretty apocalyptic right now. On top of the pandemic, we also have a heatwave, rolling power outages, and 367 wildfires. Things are pretty bleak. However, instead of feeling constantly scared and depressed, I notice my mood vacillates. On Saturday, air quality improved to moderate as opposed to unhealthy. I opened my windows for the first time in days and let a cool breeze circulate inside my apartment. The inside temperature dropped from 86 degrees to a more manageable 78.

One of the things that prompted the most anxiety is wondering what I would do in the event of an evacuation. I don’t have a car. Would I have to hitch a ride with one of my neighbors? And where would I go? If I have to evacuate, all my local friends will likely have to evacuate as well. In that case, where would I stay? I mentioned all this to a friend of mine and he promised if we have to evacuate, he will drive over and pick me up. Hearing that, I felt better.

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What does this picture have to do with anything? Nothing. It’s pretty. Photo by daniel plan on Unsplash

I mention all this because seeing my mood oscillate reminds me not only are emotions like that, but also life in general. Change can happen rapidly. A day can make a huge difference. Even in regards to these wildfires, a storm is headed our way, and if it’s a wet one instead of a dry one, the fires will diminish. I’ve been singing a rain song my spiritual teacher provided multiple times a day to encourage rain, but only time will tell if it helped.

However, even if it doesn’t rain soon, it will rain eventually. And the firefighters will eventually extinguish the blazes. My hope of course is sooner rather than later but regardless, a lot can happen in a day, in an hour, in an instant. Nothing remains static.

According to my spiritual philosophy, the Sanskrit word for the universe is jagat, and jagat comes from the root verb meaning “to move.” My spiritual teacher says, “Here in the universe, nothing is stationary, nothing is fixed. Everything moves; that’s why this universe is called jagat. Movement is its dharma; movement is its innate characteristic.”

Nothing is permanent. Nothing lasts forever. And between one day and the next, a lot can happen for better or for worse. When I’m having a down day, when I smell smoke drifting in from outside, when I wipe a layer of ash off my mailbox, I have to remind myself not only that this, too, shall pass, but also that life can improve at any moment. Sometimes hope is the only thing that can keep us going. It’s my wish that we all find some hope to hold onto while we traverse the catastrophes we’re enduring.

I dream of a world where we realize a lot can happen in an instant, an hour, a day. A world where we remember the universe is always moving and nothing lasts forever. A world where we hold on to hope for a better future because we remember what a difference a day can make.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

On Sunday, a rare thunderstorm ripped through the Bay Area sparking wildfires because we’re also in the middle of a heatwave. On the one hand, it surprised me because, again, it’s rare to see rain in August, and on the other hand it pissed me off.

I’m angry because to me this is just another indication of climate change. Some people might say, “The weather is a mystery. We’ll never know why anything happens,” but in my opinion that’s naïve at best and malicious at worst. Everything we do has an effect. It’s a law of nature that for every action there’s a reaction. Why do human beings think they’re immune when it comes to planet Earth? That our actions don’t have consequences?

I watched an inspiring documentary on Hulu, The Biggest Little Farm, that shows how one thing is connected to another. I won’t give away any details because I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but here’s an example unrelated to the movie. The deer population in the U.S. is skyrocketing because human beings overhunted their natural predators: wolves, mountain lions, bears, etc. You know what happens when there are too many deer? Traffic accidents for one, an increase in Lyme disease for another, although there are other factors at play with Lyme disease as well.

spiritual writer

Looks so cute! But also must be kept in check. Photo by Delphine SCHIEB on Unsplash

When I see people denying climate change, I’m enraged because it’s like they would rather bury their heads in the sand than take any sort of responsibility for what’s happening in the world. It’s easier, and frankly lazier, to come up with conspiracy theories than work to make any sort of real change.

Also, we as a society in the U.S. anyway seem hellbent on maintaining the status quo rather than curbing the behavior of those responsible for climate change. I say “those responsible for climate change” because did you know 100 companies are to blame for more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions? Only 100 companies! Yet researchers at Harvard and Yale are talking about spraying chemicals into the atmosphere to dim the sun because that seems more feasible than telling 100 companies to change their ways.

I realize scientists aren’t policymakers – they’re researchers, so of course they’ll research ways to combat climate change, but still. I find it ludicrous that we’re discussing something so outrageous as DIMMING THE SUN rather than forcing those 100 companies to curtail their greenhouse gas emissions. Not because we’re appealing to the goodness of their hearts, but because we have regulations with teeth.

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Let’s leave this alone, shall we? Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

What this all comes back to for me is a perspective and philosophy espoused by my spiritual teacher, which is taking into consideration the welfare of all living beings – not just human beings. He said, “We have recklessly destroyed large areas of forests without caring to think that thereby we are destroying the balance among the human, plant, and animal worlds. And we never realized – and still do not – that this wanton destruction of the animal and plant worlds will be of no benefit to human beings. Rather it will be a great loss for human society, because each and every living entity, whether plant or animal, has two types of value: one, its utility value, and the other, its existential value.”

I could write a whole other blog about existential value, but for now, I want to point out again that we are all interconnected, we are interdependent. What happens in the plant and animal worlds affects human beings and vice versa. And when we operate with that idea in mind, the entire world is better for it.

I dream of a world where we remember all of our actions have consequences. A world where we think of not only ourselves, but all living beings. A world where we do our best to act as caretakers for our planet because we understand every living being has value, even if we don’t know what it is.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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