Archive for the ‘Cultural diversity’ Category

Sonabai, self-taught artist and inspiration

On a rainy day in San Diego, this dragon blew into the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park on free museum day. (There was actually a tornado watch going on outside! I love to fly in a storm but tornados really tear up my wings!)

Inside I found an amazing exhibit called Sonabai, Another Way of Seeing. For a decade and a half, Sonabai Rajawar’s only contact was with her husband and child! In response to this isolation, she created an entirely new artistic expression of color, light, and fun.

How amazing that she had no instruction or guidance, but was able to create such joyous art! Years later, quite by chance, the Indian art world discovered her and later gave her India’s highest honor, the prestigious President’s Award.

sonabaibookSonabai’s story clearly expresses the capacity of human beings (including dragons) everywhere to meet their challenges head on and to draw from within themselves the strength and insight to change their lives.  Sonabai found ways to transform her oppression into expressions of courage, beauty, and joy in living. What an inspiration!

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People’s Climate March September 21

On September 21st, 2014 people from around the nation will come together in an unprecedented citizen mobilization for the People’s Climate March in New York City.

As world leaders meet at the United Nations climate change summit, hundreds of thousands of marchers will demand the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities. Other marches will take place around the world as we collectively call on our leaders to act on climate change.

To change everything, we need everyone on board. Here’s how you can help:

  • Take a pledge to reduce your carbon footprint and JOIN US at a march (marches happening all over the world)
  • Help Spread the word on Facebook
  • Get involved with promotion, constructing visuals, logistics, and more

For inspiration: Watch Bill McKibben’s invitation to the PCM in Rolling Stone in the video below:

People’s Climate March

 

Buddha’s Birthday on a Full Moon

The flags hung in honor of Buddha's Birthday in Patan, Kathmandu

The Buddhist flags hung in honor of Buddha's birthday in Patan, Kathmandu

Buddhism is everywhere here in Nepal and it’s intermingled with Hinduism. It seems though that most people I come across are Buddhist. I have always had an interest in Buddhism; they say it’s a philosophy and not a religion. That may be true but here in Nepal it comes across as very religious to me.  The temples alone yell religion and then all the people performing different rituals also smacks of it. Religion isn’t so bad; it brings comforts to millions. Ritual is amazing; it creates energy like nothing else I’ve ever seen. And yet, I find myself resistant to it.  Here in Nepal though I feel slightly less resistant. When I am asked if I am a Buddhist the next question is usually if I am a Christian. When I tell them I’m nothing they don’t try and convert me, they just listen.

So Lord Buddha’s (as they call him) birthday is May 27th and I happened to be in Nepal for it. It’s actually a national holiday here as you can expect. Being next to the gumpa that contains all the mini monks Buddha’s  birthday was an interesting experience for me. All the trumpet playing and horn blowing they have been practicing seemed to be for this day. It was a full moon and I went onto the roof to watch the boys playing their trumpets out towards the city.

I couldn’t get any good pictures from our roof so I decided to go up on theirs. I had my camera with me and as I went to go up on the roof many of the monks were outside the gumpa. They beckoned me and asked that I please, please come in.IMG_0868

Up to this point I had been afraid to go in. I can’t really tell you why. I guess I didn’t want to be disrespectful, this lame tourist poking around inside a religious structure. I think I was also waiting for an invitation. So I finally had it and I removed my shoes and followed the monks in.

It’s so beautiful inside with large statues of Buddha and some other folks. I learned that you always walk clockwise around any religious site here and so I followed the path around inside. The energy inside the gumpa was astounding; I could feel it circulating clockwise through the building. I could feel the energy of everyone that had come that day to pray. It was positively vibrating. As I walked around I saw mini monks stashed away in corners repeating mantras out loud, sometimes in pairs, sometimes alone.

The gumpa next door

The gumpa next door

Doorway to the gumpa

Doorway to the gumpa

As I came to the end again there was a local prostrating himself. It’s quite something to see someone doing this. It’s so humble, almost apologetic. He was doing this movement over and over across the floor as if to say “forgive me, I am so worthless, make me better.” It wasn’t in the direction of Buddha’s statue and I wasn’t about to interrupt him to ask him to who or what he was doing this to. Perhaps it was just himself.

The mini monks asked if I wanted to learn how it was done and I hesitantly said yes. I have this fear of looking like an idiot because I don’t get something right the first time, but I know that it’s better to say yes and have a new experience.

One young monk showed me first. You stand up straight and put your hands in prayer position, then you bring them to your head, your heart, and then you get down on the ground and bow your head all the way down. Then you push yourself up without using your hands more than once for the push.IMG_0865

The first time I tried this I had to use my hands twice, I didn’t really trust my own strength on the hard marble floor and I was being watched. I could see on their faces that I had done it wrong even though they were obviously trying to hide it. I tried again and this time got smiles from the two monks. This is the kind of magical thing I hoped for, the sort of romantic idea that got into my head when I first heard the name Nepal. After this I felt uneasy, wondering what I should do now that I had made my rounds so I made my way out into the entranceway and watched all the young monks gathering at the lit candles. They were picking them up and bringing them inside for some purpose that I couldn’t gather, mostly because I didn’t ask. I kept having this sense like I was interrupting something, that I was an outsider. I felt myself shrinking back. I wanted to take a picture badly but was afraid to ask. I didn’t want to make a wrong impression or say something wrong but the photo opportunity was too good to let go.

I haven’t prostrated myself since then but I have this feeling like it would do me some good. I think it would do a lot of people some good. Do I have to prostrate myself to some religious god? Shouldn’t I prostrate myself in front of my own self judgment instead. I could learn to be easier and more care free…

Woman celebrating in the Laghenkel area of Kathmandu

Woman performing a ritual in honor of Buddha's birthday

 

The Asian Hot Pot That Is America

This dragon thinks it’s really cool how Asian culture has co-mingled so much into every day mainstream life in America, the current lair of the dragon, where people love us dragons…

Martial Arts DragonToday in America, many of us practice yoga and meditation for stress management. (In fact, most fitness centers now carry yoga classes.) Martial arts and Tai Chi have also become popular activities for many.

In the area of alternative medicine, more and more of us are turning to Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda and Oriental therapies for health and well-being, and most people have heard of Deepak Chopra, the “poet-prophet of alternative medicine.” (This dragon turns to acupuncture when its scales get too scaly or its flames start to sputter, especially since many health insurance companies now cover acupuncture!)

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