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Training the senses for success!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Once again, one of my teachers, Eknath Easwaran, has captured an important truth that either propels me toward, or gets in my way of, success on the weight loss journey...and in LIFE in general! Cheesecakes in the bakery case or vegetarian sushi in the refrigerator case, movies instead of exercise, staring at a monitor or jumping on my bike...all great opportunities to train the senses!

Even as a tortoise draws in its limbs, the wise can draw in their senses at will.
– Bhagavad Gita

What a marvelous simile! Just imagine a tortoise being approached by a group of school children with sticks in their hands. He sees the children coming, and the command is given to the limbs, "Retire"” Immediately, the head, the tail, and the four legs withdraw into the shell. The children come; they tap on the shell with their sticks, trying to get the tortoise to come out. He is safe inside.

After the children leave and all is quiet, the tortoise ventures to stick his neck out, then his tail and legs. He continues his journey, unconcerned. He goes where he likes.

If we want to live in freedom, we must train our senses. We learn when to welcome an experience, and when to withdraw for our own safety. We become masters of our lives. Then we will be like the giant tortoise I saw at the zoo – wandering freely while all the other animals were in cages. A notice on his back read: "I am free. Don’t report me to the management."
-- Eknath Easwaran

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

GOANNA2 9/10/2010 7:55AM

    Thank you so much for the beautiful words Maha.
I am stressing out over exams at the moment and
this gave me such a lift.

Again puts things into perspective and staying focused.
While researching quotes found 1 from Socrates
"The best man is he who most tries to perfect himself,
and the happiest man is he who most feels he is
perfecting himself". Focus to live simply and peacefully.

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BRIGHTSPARK7 9/9/2010 11:01PM

    This reminds me of my own encircling of myself with my 'borders' when I feel the need for them, Mahalakshmi. Thankyou for this beautiful blog.
Love and respect,

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GETDONE 9/9/2010 10:04PM


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    Love this analogy... This one will stay with me. Thank you, Maha, as usual for sharing insight that speaks to you...


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JEANNETTE59 9/9/2010 4:06PM

  To all the emoticon out there, thanks for the lesson.
And to you dear friend, thanks for being emoticon

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SLASALLE 9/9/2010 2:27PM

    Where in the world do you find the time to spend on all of these wonderful blogs???? You constantly amaze me ... and I LOVE reading them.


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KALIGIRL 9/9/2010 1:58PM

    Wonderful - when to welcome, when to withdraw.
I welcome your blogs.

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WALKINGANNIE 9/9/2010 1:10PM

    More amazing designs in the turtle's body and shell.

I love the images that you use to illustrate your insights.

I'm so glad that you are continuing to blog and hope that you will still be able to find time to share your unique contributions. (No pressure though - I don't want you to feel that this is a burden as you become busier.)

emoticon emoticon

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TIPPINGPOINT 9/9/2010 11:03AM

I highly rate Eknath Easwaran and his 8 point program.

Comment edited on: 9/9/2010 11:04:14 AM

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CARRAND 9/9/2010 10:06AM

    It all comes back to focus. We have to focus on a healthy path and draw our senses away from the distractions.

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CWESTMORE 9/9/2010 9:32AM

    Thank you for sharing this blog with us. The lessons learned from you have been wonderful. I, too, like the tortoise example look for safe experiences especially in eating healthy with no regrets. emoticon

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KCOCEAN 9/9/2010 9:25AM

    I like this blog. The tortoise has learned how to be safe. As people trying to loose weight or be healthy we have to learn to be safe. We have to finds ways not to let others derail our journey.

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Someone is looking to YOU for love.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

I have, for as long as I can remember, had a resonance with and a primal attraction to hawks, particularly the red-tailed hawk. Though I'm not engaged in Native American spiritual practices, I have long considered the hawk to be my animal medicine, my spirit guide.

This beautiful creature does not neurotically worry about sufficient activity and proper weight, about isolation and loneliness, about appearances and purpose, but instead, in the hawk's own voice --
"my gold skull filled with nothing
but God's will
the whole day through, instead
of these glinting voices incessantly
unerringly guiding me
to pursue
what makes me sick, and not to
what makes me glad."

Franz Wright is an extraordinary man and poet, and has found redemption and hope after many years of mental illness and substance abuse. I love that Panhala presented "The Hawk" today, because it's exactly the right time and place for me to be with it...and to share it with you!

The Hawk

Maybe in a million years
a better form of human
being will come, happier
and more intelligent. A few already
have infiltrated this world and lived
to very much regret it,
I suppose.
I'd prefer to have come
in the form of that hawk, floating over
the mirroring fire
of Clearlake's
hill, my gold
skull filled with nothing
but God's will
the whole day through, instead
of these glinting voices incessantly
unerringly guiding me
to pursue
what makes me sick, and not to
what makes me glad. And yet
I am changing: this three-pound lump
of sentient meat electrified
by hope and terror has learned to hear
His silence like the sun,
and sought to change!
And friends
on earth at the same time
as me, listen: from the sound of those crickets
last night, Rene Char said
prenatal life
must have been sweet -
each voice perhaps also a star
in that night
from which
this time
we won't be
interrupted anymore - but
fellow monsters while we are still here, for one minute, think
about this: there is someone right now who is looking
to you, not Him, for whatever
love still exists.

~ Franz Wright ~
(God's Silence)

Franz Wright is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet. He graduated from Oberlin College in 1977. He was the Jacob Ziskind Visiting Poet-in-Residence at Brandeis University until May 2009. He and his father James Wright are the only parent/child pair to have won the Pulitzer Prize in the same category.

Born in Vienna, Austria, in 1953, and during his youth, his family moved to the Northwest United States, the Midwest, and northern California. Wright believes that his birth overseas and early years of moving around with his parents never allowed him to put down roots in any one place. "That pattern was set very early," he says.

Not having roots has its benefits for Wright's chosen vocation. "I feel like I have many pasts and that helps my writing," he explains. "But, I also don't feel like I come from anywhere, and that's disturbing."

His parents divorced when he was 7 years old, and the young Wright went to live with his mother. While he would see his father periodically, it is a correspondence that he shared with his father for ten years that Wright speaks of with fondness. The two wrote letters back and forth while the younger Wright was between the ages of 15 and 25.

These letters were about life, but more importantly about poetry. As he started to publish at the age of 19, Wright found in his father's letters "great patience and honesty."

What the younger Wright also shared with his father, and his younger brother Marshall, was a proclivity for addiction and mental illness. Wright's journey as a poet has been extraordinary and yet riddled with the all too familiar cliches of the tortured artist. He is very open in talking about the length and arduous nature of his struggles with mental illness and addiction.

Wright speaks with stark clarity about his "manic depression, schizoid affective disorder coupled with delusions and paranoia." He has been hospitalized several times, although not in the last ten years, for these troubles, and for attempted suicides.

The mental illness was either the root of, or at least exacerbated by his addictions to alcohol and drugs. Wright tried "every single drug in existence," although his preferences were for opiates like heroin. "I never had a sober breath for thirty years," he says, quickly adding that today he has been in recovery for seven years.

As part of that recovery he attends daily AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings in Waltham, goes to Catholic mass in Boston each morning at 7 a.m. and works with others who are addicts and mentally ill. He considers that last the "best treatment because you realize you are not alone in the world and that these things are not a moral state of sin or crime."

Wright knows the depths of his own misery, feeling that he would never get well and that the end was always near. He once did not leave his apartment for two years. And yet, he has managed to continue writing and winning accolades. "I share myself as an example that severe mental illness and addiction is not the end of the road."

It is the hour
the moment
when it becomes possible
to distinguish a white
thread from a black,
so prayer begins.
-- from "Shaving in the Dark"

In 1999 he married the translator Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright. The two main sources of Wright's peace are his wife and his conversion to Catholicism at the age of 47 when he got baptized into the faith.

He wakes up at around 4:30 each morning, drives to St. Clement Catholic Church in Boston by 6 a.m. Before the daily mass at 7 a.m. he listens to a group that chants in Latin. He loves this routine. "I know that every 24 hours for one hour I will be completely happy," he says.

While Wright is grateful for the awards he has won because it helps him financially, accolades don't help with the struggles of trying to create consistently. However, one award does stand out because of its historical significance. The 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry that he won, coupled with the same prize his father won in 1972, make them the only father-son team to achieve that feat.

"It's fabulous," he says of this historical event. "It's an incredible honor, as my father was like a god to me. To be mentioned in the same breath as him still astounds me. I can't take it in."

Since his recovery he has been writing about his conversion, his addictions and about getting well. He is concerned with what happens to someone after this ecstatic conversion."t is strange to go to such heights and then return to reality," he says, speaking about the hard work and discipline it takes to continue writing in a meaningful way. Since he knows all too well about long periods of despair and doubt, he struggles even today because he doesn't "want to fade away."

Wright has translated poems by Rene Char, Erica Pedretti, and Rainer Maria Rilke. Wright has also received the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, as well as grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Whiting Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Wright wrote the lyrics to and performs on the Clem Snide song "Encounter at 3AM" on the album Hungry Bird (released in February 2009). His latest book, Wheeling Motel, had selections put to music for the record 'Readings from Wheeling Motel' (2009)

Primary source of bio:

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

FLORIDASUN 9/16/2010 2:01PM

    Such a fascinating man, and the beauty of his words are breath taking!

I often think that there is a very fine line between brillance and the torture of self destructivism.

So many of the great masters were so very tortured it makes me wonder if the stripping away of our souls is the honesty and the pain that we have to face head on to tap into the ethers of greatness.

Most people are afraid to walk that rocky road. My Josh knew it well. emoticon emoticon emoticon

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CARRAND 9/8/2010 8:59PM

    Fascinating man and a wonderful poem. Thank you for sharing.

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DENI_ZEN 9/8/2010 7:17PM

    What an amazing man, Maha! Thank you for bringing us this work of his :) As if Hawks weren't majestic enough in their own right, Wright brings us such a beautiful portrait of them in this poem of his :) He really captured the hawk's essence! - Sandi emoticon

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BUNNYCATS 9/8/2010 5:29PM


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WALKINGANNIE 9/8/2010 2:11PM

    Thanks for sharing the inspiring biography and for the stunning photograph of the hawk as well as the moving words.

How amazing that something as functional and exquisitely engineered can be so beautiful as the patterns of the wing feathers.

emoticon emoticon

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SHERYLDS 9/8/2010 1:47PM

    The info on Franz Wright's is very interesting and inspiring...And it makes me wonder about how many people there are in this world who are mentally ill but don't or won't go for help. Makes me wonder when I come in contact with people behaving badly. And I do believe it's is the cure (showing a little kindess and understanding).

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KALIGIRL 9/8/2010 1:23PM

    I too love the birds of prey and as a "fellow monster" am indebted for your post. May our heads be full of love.

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SLASALLE 9/8/2010 11:19AM

    Maha, my dear friend, you NEVER cease to amaze me. Once again, and as always, your choice of what to share brings out the depth of many feelings in me, just by reading the poem and the biography of this amazing poet.

Thank you, kind soul.


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GREENCAT1 9/8/2010 10:54AM

    Beautiful poem! We have a nest of hawks on our property. though I am not sure if they are red tailed or cooper's hawks. Very inspirational!

Cathy emoticon

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PENNYAN45 9/8/2010 10:48AM

    "looking to YOU not Him for whatever love still exists."

If they look to you, Maha, they will find love. Thanks for the poem and the info about the poet. Very interesting.


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EARTHSEAME 9/8/2010 10:09AM

    Thanks for posting this. I just sent the poem to a friend and I plan on reading Mr. Wright's books.

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LYNNANN43 9/8/2010 10:07AM

    Thank you for the wonderful, inspiring biography of Franz Wright.

And "The Hawk" is a gorgeous poem.

Have a wonderful day, MAHA!


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It's Labor Day: Cast All Your Votes for Dancing!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Happy Day! And what better way to enjoy the day than to DANCE!

FYI: When the Sufi poets, like Hafiz, Kabir, or Rumi, reference "the Friend" or "Beloved," it may (or may not) be clear to you that they are speaking of the Source, God, the Divine...whatever term for the Ground of Being that resonates with you.

This is a juicy and beautifully articulated piece. Ladinsky is a fabulous translator of Hafiz.

Enjoy the poem AND enjoy the day!


I know the voice of depression
Still calls to you.

I know those habits that can ruin your life
Still send their invitations.

But you are with the Friend now
And look so much stronger.

You can stay that way
And even bloom!

Keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From your prayers and work and music
And from your companions' beautiful laughter.

Keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From the sacred hands and glance of your Beloved
And, my dear,
From the most insignificant movements
Of your own holy body.

Learn to recognize the counterfeit coins
That may buy you just a moment of pleasure,
But then drag you for days
Like a broken man
Behind a farting camel.

You are with the Friend now.
Learn what actions of yours delight Him,
What actions of yours bring freedom
And Love.

Whenever you say God's name, dear pilgrim,
My ears wish my head was missing
So they could finally kiss each other
And applaud all your nourishing wisdom!

O keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From your prayers and work and music
And from your companions' beautiful laughter

And from the most insignificant movements
Of your own holy body.

Now, sweet one,
Be wise.
Cast all your votes for Dancing!

~ Hafiz ~
(I Heard God Laughing - Renderings of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky)

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JEANNETTE59 9/8/2010 12:16PM

  Thank you for sharing so much of yourself as you share the words and life of another emoticon

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JILLINWONDER 9/8/2010 10:14AM

    Quoting Hafiz and so many enthusiastic responses... I love SP for such things! No farting camels here. Thanks so much for sharing.

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TKADEEPBREATH 9/7/2010 10:21PM

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I so agree to watch for the counterfeits . . . they will trip you up every time.

Hope you have a gread week. Love, Jan XOXO

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KALIGIRL 9/7/2010 1:47PM

    Poem is wonderful and enjoyed the day with my sis and our DHs.

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CARRAND 9/6/2010 9:15PM

    Wonderful poem! I'm so glad you shared it.

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GOANNA2 9/6/2010 6:04PM

    I also wholeheartedly VOTE FOR DANCING.
Thanks for giving me some sunshine and
feeling good feelings.
emoticon emoticon

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JEANNETTE59 9/6/2010 3:31PM

  Dance and sing in praise of the Creator, it is the celebration that is important not the technical perfection emoticon

Thank you for the gifts you share.

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WALKINGANNIE 9/6/2010 1:51PM


so much for "all YOUR nourishing wisdom" Maha and for enriching another day.

emoticon emoticon

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ELDORADO2 9/6/2010 1:44PM

    I enjoyed the poem and I love to dance ( move my body because I can't dance). I love to praise God.

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GENKI_WARRIOR 9/6/2010 1:08PM

    This is so beautiful (yea...Genki had tears in her eyes emoticon)! Yet again--something that's just what I needed!

Thanks so much for sharing this : )

"...from the most insignificant movements
of your own holy body."

LOL--Voting for DANCING (and getting out from behind that farting camel)!

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SHEENADEE 9/6/2010 12:39PM


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JUGE300000 9/6/2010 12:36PM

    Good Thought.


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FRANCESCANAZ 9/6/2010 12:03PM companion's beautiful laughter...Me encanta este poema! Voy a compartirlo con mis estudiantes! emoticonFrancesca

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DDOORN 9/6/2010 11:38AM

    I remember my summers as a child spent in Lake Michigan feeling much like those dolphins in your pic...and YES! I'm always striving to recapture and celebrate that spirit! :-)


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THE_SILVER_OWL 9/6/2010 11:37AM

    You broaden my horizons with each of your blogs.

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MISS_VIV 9/6/2010 11:16AM

    I absolutely VOTE FOR DANCING. Anywhere any time. It's the right thing to do.


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PUDLECRAZY 9/6/2010 11:08AM

    Wonderful start to my day!

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STLRZGRRL 9/6/2010 11:04AM


NOW I will have to wait for 5 minutes and go back because I canNOT stop thinking about the farting camel!!!

You do this to TEST me, WOMAN!!!

(I know, I know, How old am I, right?)

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ROBINSNEWNEST 9/6/2010 11:04AM

    Again, dear Maha, you present a piece that reminds me to " keep squeezing drops of the Sun..."

Love and gratitude for you --

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Happy Labor Day (a la my hero Mary Oliver)!

Friday, September 03, 2010


On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God -

a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside

this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope

it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.

~ Mary Oliver ~
(Why I Wake Early)

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

DDOORN 9/6/2010 9:08AM

    Thoughtful, mindful as always...thx you for sharing...!


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WALKINGANNIE 9/5/2010 4:07PM

    Another thing that I am grateful for is that you introduce me to Mary Oliver.

Thank you for that Maha and for so very much else along the way.

emoticon emoticon emoticon

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DOKEYOKEY 9/5/2010 10:57AM

    This is indeed a comfort 'cause I haven't figured it out yet. So yes, let it be inexplicable. :)


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B_HORTON 9/5/2010 9:37AM

    I LOVE your quotes, Maha.

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    ahhhh..."how great was its energy, how humble its effort.."
You seem to be a messenger on so many days...

Love and gratitude --

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DENI_ZEN 9/4/2010 9:52AM

    Maha, I just loved this line, too ...

"it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe."

The other day here on Spark, someone asked me what my purpose was. Fifty-eight + years on the planet haven't revealed that to me yet, and finally, Mary Oliver explains why that might be: I can't explain my role in building the universe, and I don't know that this will ever become possible. Yet as she also writes, "It will always be like this..." And I agree, at least speaking for myself :) Thank you for some beautiful wisdom that spoke to me this morning! -

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SUCHAHOOT 9/4/2010 12:39AM

    Verah, verah nice, as always. thank you!

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PENNYAN45 9/3/2010 10:25PM

    I have also learned to love Mary Oliver's poems -- through you, my friend. Thanks for sharing this one.

" we each go on in our inexplicable ways building the universe"

Have a great holiday weekend ahead!


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BRIGHTSPARK7 9/3/2010 9:11PM

    One of my treasured memories is sitting on a worn wooden bench, on the banks of the Hudson River, while a daddy-long-legs sat beside me, basking in shared silence and stillness.
So grateful to Mary Oliver, and to you, for reminding me today.

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JEANNETTE59 9/3/2010 8:28PM

  Amen emoticon

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GOANNA2 9/3/2010 7:05PM

    Beautiful. emoticon emoticon

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SLASALLE 9/3/2010 5:18PM

    She is fast becoming a favorite of mine also, thanks to you!! In fact, Beth's brother has JUST discovered her. I plan to take one of her books as a gift when we go visit next month!

My life has been so enhanced by your sharing ... I hope you know how aware I am of that AND how grateful (how appropriate).

With love,

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KRISKECK 9/3/2010 4:14PM

    Beautiful! Thank you...I hope you are feeling better than you were earlier in the week about your place in this universe! Because you are truly a beautiful person and I hate to see you sad...

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THE_SILVER_OWL 9/3/2010 12:05PM

    May I join you and Mary Oliver sitting on that hillside? What a lovely image that invokes. One of my favorite things to do is to walk into the woods, find a place to sit and just observe.

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GENKI_WARRIOR 9/3/2010 11:10AM

    LOVE IT! Thanks for sharing emoticon

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Change from Within: New Orleans 5 Years Later

Friday, September 03, 2010

Karma Tube, a beacon of light in the media world, continues offering us gifts:

Hurricane Katrina changed New Orleans forever. For the past five years since, hurricane-force passion has been working to keep that change positive. "Change from Within" features the stories of three different people using three completely different paths to rebuild the city for the better...and keep it that way.
A community organizer who inspires people to "Talk LOVE in the community" through creative art and expression.
A public defender who wants to help the innocent by "shepherding them through their darkest moments".
A journalist in search of the voices of the "invisible men of the community".

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BRIGHTSPARK7 9/3/2010 9:07PM

    Thank you for sharing this, Mahalakshmi! Inspiring and empowering!

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SLASALLE 9/3/2010 5:17PM

    As always, deep and thoughtful ... with awareness!!

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THE_SILVER_OWL 9/3/2010 12:18PM

    I was most touched by the "Invisible Men" storyline. That has got this brain of mine thinking...

There are invisible people (male and female) all over the planet, in all neighborhoods. Some remain invisible by choice, others by habit, and some because they believe they have no other option.

Awareness brings light upon the situation. Thank you for sharing this piece with us.


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EARTHSEAME 9/3/2010 11:42AM

    emoticon I loved this! It was moving and so beautifully filmed.

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KMIRANDA2000 9/3/2010 10:39AM


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