Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Wanderer

The Wanderer, Mt. Kearsarge, Warner, NH, August 2007, Nikon D40 with 18-200mm VR lens, Focal length 75mm, Exposure 1/30 sec @ f29.0, ISO 220, exposure bias -1/3 stop, no flash, circular polarizing filter © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Step 6. Be the Bridge
{continuing the series, by Susan Skog}

"Out beyond the ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I'll meet you there." -- Rumi

When do you demonize and fear people you don't even know? When you have incorrect perceptions of others, it's easier to fear, even hate them. Get to know the genuine in others. Meet people of other cultures, religions, and backgrounds. Find shared experiences, hopes, and beliefs. Connect on that holy ground, and peace will flow out from those moments.

I find this message to be true and important. If we are not exposed to other cultures, to other peoples and their ways of life, to other philosophies, other religions, other ideas about what is important in life, then we become isolated and stultified and quite possibly arrogant.

We may believe our ideas and opinions are "the best", or the "right" ones. Only based on the fact that they are the only ones we know. Or that others like us told us so.

Like everything in life, it is so important that you get direct experiential knowledge. That you experience this life, this world, with an open and receptive mind and attitude. And that you seek to make your own judgments (rather than rely upon others), or even better, that you withhold judgments and just experience the variety of life.

The world is a most fascinating place, and there is so much that is fascinating to see, to hear, the taste, and to experience. Broaden your horizons. Be a citizen of the world. And have a wanderer's heart.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Conflicting Views

"Lives to the gallon", Billboard with graffiti, London, England, February 2003, Sony Cybershot, Exposure 1/80 sec @ f3.2, ISO 100, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Step 5. Creatively Resolve One Conflict
{continuing the series, by Susan Skog}

"Conflicts are a call to creative problem-solving." -- Louise Diamond

Whether you're hosting a family gathering or conferencing with your staff, conflict will pop up as surely as that annoying neighbor who wants you to vote like him. Intensity will always percolate in any community. Conflicts can't be avoided. But we can learn to navigate them more confidently and use the tension as an opportunity to express our views honestly and peacefully.

The next time conflict surfaces, keep breathing, stay calm, thoughtfully speak your truth, listen to others, and try to find some shared ground. Realize that your frustration may be about the situation, not the person. Set the intention to find a resolution. Try to find the humor. Agree to disagree, if necessary.

So, the photo here comes from a trip to London just before the start of the Iraq war. It's clear the graffiti artist's message. And what if you were a supporter (at that time) of going into Iraq? A sure recipe for conflict, right?

Well, I don't really wish to re-start that debate ;-) But let's use it to make some points.

First of all, you are not your "positions". You may take positions from time-to-time, but they do not define you. And you should make sure you don't define yourself as a series of opinions, positions, and then bundle them up into bins with labels. That objectification of the self is a big part of the problem.

If someone disagrees with your positions, or you with his, that does not have to put you in conflict with the individual.

So what of the disagreements and conflicting views that will inevitably arise many times throughout the day?

It is your choice how you wish to deal with them. My suggestion is to value above all else the individual's humanity, and as applicable, his friendship. With that firmly in mind, how angry will you get? Will you make the intention to not hurt the individual or damage the relationship? Is your dialog based upon mutual respect? Do you seek to understand his viewpoint? Do you wait for the opening, the receptiveness, to your opinion before pushing it on him? Are you as open-minded as you hope that he will be?

This is the manner in which interpersonal conflicts can be wisely addressed. With a calm, respectful attitude. It does not imply acquiescence or lack of principle. But it does demonstrate what you truly value -- a peaceful approach to conflict resolution. And by so doing, you take one more step toward peace itself.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Joy on the Hill

Joy on the Hill, Portland, Oregon, April 2007, Nikon D40 with 18-200mm VR lens, Focal length 18mm, Exposure 1/160 sec @ f6.3, ISO 200, exposure bias -2/3 stop, no flash, circular polarizing filter © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Step 4. Focus on the Positive
{continuing the series, by Susan Skog}

"Plant yourself in the middle of what you love most--the thing within you that is most alive." -- Yael Lachman

Others may want to waste their precious time focusing on the perceived ugliness in the world. Be the one who focuses on the positive, and watch the magic happen. Our thoughts are powerful. What we pay attention to expands. Attract peace with your thoughts. Notice peaceful people and places, tune out violence.

And remember that more people are at peace than at war all across the earth. This is the story we need to focus on, broadcast, and amplify. The world is evolving and becoming a brighter place.

OK, this is the easy one. Totally within our control. Totally a matter of "attitude".

OK, so maybe it's not quite that simple ;-) But seriously, it is relatively easy to focus on the positive, emphasize those things that are helpful and wise, rather than hurtful and counterproductive.

The first thing I would tell people, if you really want to see the difference here is .... TURN OFF THE TV! Sorry for shouting. But really, do you think that the gang-style killing that just happened over on the east side of Chicago is relevant to 99.99% of the people that heard the story on the national news? If it bleeds, it leads. What a mindless calculation.

And when you are done with that mindless story, you can count on being bombarded by other mindless advertisements trying to sell you things that you don't need. Why bother?

Get outside. Get into nature. Find its rhythm and get in tune with it. Slow down. Look inward. That is where you will find answers and insights. Feel the peacefulness envelope you, as you slowly detox from the angst-filled, conflict-ridden, artificial world that you see in the news and elsewhere.

If you seek the positive in the world -- really seek it -- you will find it everywhere. Why that doesn't make the news says more about our culture, I'm afraid, than about its merit or worth.

Make yourself the decider. The gatekeeper. The watchman. Don't let just anyone play with your mind or your feelings. Eschew manipulation in favor of insight. You know all of this deep inside. Get in touch with that quiet voice, and take control of the messages that you allow to enter. Stand a watchful guard. It's amazing the things that will try to slip past your higher self.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Demon Within

The Demon Within, Washington, DC, April 2007, Nikon D40 with 18-200mm VR lens, Focal length 32mm, Exposure 1/4 sec @ f4.2, ISO 800, no flash, circular polarizing filter © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Step 3. Heal a Piece of Your Anger
{continuing the series, by Susan Skog}

"Peace is as much about getting the bombs out of our own hearts as out of the Pentagon budget." -- Colman McCarthy

It's normal to get angry. But as peacemakers, our challenge is to channel that frustration into something greater. Think of your anger as rocket fuel that can launch your dreams--not scald people around you. View it as a surge of energy to create what you really want and need. Practice breathing deeply, disarming yourself and asking, "Why am I so angry? What do I really want?"

If we can transform our anger into a higher dream, as King did, we take a stand for peace. We step away from the vise of anger and step into the lives we really want.

I think this is such a key step. In the course of my normal day, I often hear people belittle others opinions, even go so far as to call people who feel a certain way "stupid, ignorant, or fanatics". What's interesting, is that I hear it on both sides of the conservative-liberal "divide". Each side, saying the same angry judgments against the other. And as for talk radio or most of the news media ... well, it is very hard to find calm, objective analysis these days. Does anyone truly gain from such exchanges?

This is where, for all of the desire to change the world, and somehow, magically, bring peace, we must first work on our own negative feelings and volcanic anger. What good can it possibly do to preach how others should behave, when we are not modeling it ourselves. People may react to words, but they internalize demonstrated, principled action.

This was the power of Gandhi, King, and Mandella. Not just words, but actions that were aligned with those words.

So while you look outside yourself to see what is broken in the world, peer deeply inside and begin your work within. For before you can march for peace, rally for peace, demonstrate for peace, or sit-in for peace, you must be peaceful.

Otherwise, it is nothing but empty rhetoric and wasted energy, and perhaps worse; the incongruity might turn off those who would otherwise wish to have followed you. You could have the ability to inspire others, but that requires an internally consistent message.

As Gandhi famously told his followers: "We must be the change we wish to see." In this case, it means we must ourselves be peaceful within and without. We must be peace.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Running Meditation

Running Meditation, Portland, Oregon, May 2008, Nikon D40 with 18-200mm VR lens, Focal length 50mm, Exposure 1/13 sec @ f4.8, ISO 800, exposure bias -1/3 stop, no flash, circular polarizing filter © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Step 2. Nurture Peace in Yourself
{continuing the series, by Susan Skog}

"The first step is to come home to ourselves. You don't need to become a Buddha. You need to become yourself." -- Thich Nhat Hanh

It's hard to stay peaceful if we're overwhelmed by life. Find some peace, calm, and stability in your inner world so you can be kinder in your outer world. Do whatever soothes you, daily. Spend time in nature, meditate, sing, dance, play, chill on the couch. Do yoga, read by the fire, eat good chocolate while watching an entire sunset. Disconnect from conflict and just breathe for a while. Center yourself and tap into the peace you already carry within.

For me, it is not the cushion, but simply time alone.

Walking or running, especially in nature, usually does the trick. I notice that a few things happen.

Sometimes I work out problems -- things that didn't seem clear or resolvable before, now I see a way ahead.

Sometimes my mind is elsewhere, and I am just part of the rhythm of my breath and my steps. During those times, I may just feel the eventual euphoria called the runner's high (which is pretty nice by itself).

But many times, I have little "aha" moments. When my mind is clear and not focused on anything, and then a new idea, disconnected from anything else, just pops into my head. It's a creative inspiration, and then my mind can take that and run with it.

Othertimes, what I'll call "deep thoughts" appear and I spend time examining them. Not looking for answers to questions, but twirling the issue around so that I can see all sides of it. I like to challenge my own biases and cultural prejudices, and see if I can examine it from another's point of view. I like to blend the "us vs them" perspectives, and help uncover how there is only "all as one".

So this is my approach to nurturing peace within myself. What's yours? Whatever works best for you -- just give it time.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Blessed are the Peace Makers

Something's Wrong, Jaffa, israel, April 2008, Canon PowerShot SD870 IS, Exposure 1/400 sec @ f5.8, ISO 80, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

This week, I'll begin a themed photo/blog series based on an article by Susan Skog "10 Ways to Bring Peace to the World". The title of this blog is a link to that article. And to reinforce the steps in my mind, and maybe yours, I'll try to marry each one with a photo.

We begin, perhaps, with a statement of the obvious. We have religions that have among their fundamental messages "Peace", and yet we are trapped, often by religious ideology, in a battle that is anything but peaceful. But also we are trapped by our own limited thinking, by our biases and our prejudices. We are not thinking clearly.

Here is Susan Skog's introductory message, and her first step:

As Martin Luther King, Jr. illustrated with his life, the entire world is lifted up by one individual choosing peace. One person can create something that ignites all of our collective hopes, energies, and dreams. What if you could do that too? What if you are destined to be your generation's peacemaker?

"We have before us the glorious opportunity to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of our civilization," King said. Here are 10 real ways you can cultivate deep in yourself the loving peace you want to see in the core of the world.

Step 1. Wherever You Stand, Make It Camp David

"The only way we can make peace is for each of us to be the peace we want to see." -- Susan Collin Marks

It's up to us. We can't wait for someone more powerful or wiser to deliver peace. We are the wise and powerful ones who choose peace in every thought and action.

King showed us that even the simplest acts tilt the world toward peace. When his house was burned during the civil rights movement, he raced home not knowing if his wife and young daughter were safe. And he knew whatever he did could affect the anger brewing in the country. He stepped onto his porch and said, "Remember, this is what God said, 'We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies. I want you to love your enemies. Be good to them. Love them and let them know you love them.'"

Global peace is a personal choice, hour by hour. Ask yourself, "Am I going to add to the fighting in the world? Or offer up something greater?"

You really do have to admire Martin Luther King, and his message of peace directly in the face of violence against him and his family. In the culture I have grown up in, even though there is a Christian backdrop, the real message has been one of strength and power. Indeed, "weakness" by not responding directly to the threats and provocations, we are told implicitly and explicitly, will only make you more vulnerable.

Clearly we have a long way to go to create a culture of peace. But one at a time, and one step at a time, we may each begin, if we so choose.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"Don't We All?"

Beneficent Smile, Burma (Myanmar), November 2005, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/100 sec @ f2.8, ISO 64, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

I love this picture. Look at that smile. You need to understand that my good friend here was being verbally accosted by the three young Burmese girls trying to selling their wares on the American tourists that drop in to this border town from Thailand's northern tip.

You could have many different reactions to this somewhat raucous attack, but I can think of none better than this smile.

I thought of this picture when I read this brief story about another kind of encounter between two seemingly different types of people. Have a look at it, and see what you think. And then you will understand the title of this post.
"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy."

-Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Are you lost?

Canoe in the clouds, Tucker Pond, Warner, NH, July 2008, Nikon D40 with 18-200mm VR lens, Focal length 40mm, Exposure 1/200 sec @ f7.1, ISO 200, exposure bias -1 stop, no flash, circular polarizing filter © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Woah. I'm a little disoriented. The canoe is floating on the clouds. For a minute, my mind lost it's grip on "reality" -- the way we think the world works.

But that momentary loss is a healthy interruption to our internal navigation system. Sometimes, it is essential to be lost.
"When you lose yourself, you find the Beloved. There is no other secret. I don't know any more than this."

-- Ansari of Herat (1006-1089 C.E.: An Early Sufi Master)
God is everywhere and everything. We are God. There is nothing but the oneness of God. It is only our sense of being a separate ego that obscures the omnipresent Truth.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The gift of (in)sight

Mind the Gap, London, England, September 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/660 sec @ f2.8, ISO 66, flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Sometimes we need others to help us realize our true potential. The "gap" between what we "know" we can do, and what is truly possible, is rather large indeed. We often limit our potential by sending implicit (and often explicit) "I can't" messages to our brains and our bodies.

Take a look at this story below, and realize how the odds were stacked against this family, this father, and this child. But then realize what became possible, and see the attitude that bursts through what others would call significant disabilities. Even our language has to change. And that requires true (in)sight.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Buddha's compassion

Your Buddha Half, Tokyo, Japan, April 2007, Nikon D40 with 18-200mm VR lens, Focal length 90mm, Exposure 1/50 sec @ f5.3, ISO 200, no flash, circular polarizing filter © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

is the willingness
to play
in the field of dreams
even though
you are awake.

-- Matthew Flickstein,
"Swallowing the River Ganges"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Industrious, Chiang Saen, Tailand, November 2005, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/250 sec @ f4.5, ISO 64, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Meditation - a poem inspired by Thoreau

by Amy Belding Brown

For starters,
lie face down in the grass
and watch the industry
of ants
as they hunt and gather
They are relentless
in their pursuit
of affluence
and will attach themselves
to wreckage
twice their size;
they'll spend their whole afternoon
struggling to bring it
home to their
dark tunnels.

Then think --
does this remind you
of anyone
you know?

turn over
and face the empty sky.
Let your eyes rest
in that high blue field.
Notice the thousand variations
in that color
and how one sky
can hold them all.
Imagine yourself weightless,
falling upwards
drifting with the birds.

Then think --
does this remind you
of who you want
to be?

Cloud Ripples, Amherst, NH, September 2007, Canon PowerShot SD870 IS, Exposure 1/320 sec @ f16.0, ISO 80, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Looking For Your Face

Sunrise, Sunset, Waikiki, Honolulu, Hawaii, February 2002, Sony Cybershot, Exposure 1/500 sec @ f5.0, ISO 400, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Looking For Your Face

From the beginning of my life
I have been looking for your face
but today I have seen it.

Today I have seen
the charm, the beauty,
the unfathomable grace
of the face
that I was looking for.

Today I have found you
and those that laughed
and scorned me yesterday
are sorry that they were not looking
as I did.

I am bewildered by the magnificence
of your beauty
and wish to see you with a hundred eyes.

My heart has burned with passion
and has searched forever
for this wondrous beauty
that I now behold.

I am ashamed
to call this love human
and afraid of God
to call it divine.

Your fragrant breath
like the morning breeze
has come to the stillness of the garden
You have breathed new life into me
I have become your sunshine
and also your shadow.

My soul is screaming in ecstasy
Every fiber of my being
is in love with you

Your effulgence
has lit a fire in my heart
and you have made radiant
for me
the earth and sky.

My arrow of love
has arrived at the target
I am in the house of mercy
and my heart
is a place of prayer.

-- Rumi --

Monday, January 19, 2009

Simple as Black and White

Black and White, Jebenhausen, Germany, January 2009, Nikon D40 with 18-200mm VR lens, Focal length 18mm, Exposure 1/250 sec @ f8.0, ISO 200, exposure bias -2/3 stop, no flash, circular polarizing filter, heavily post-processed in iPhoto © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

On MLK day, I thought a black and white photo was appropriate. Simply because of its integration into the whole picture. You cannot have one without the other. We are all brothers and sisters. We've learned enough in the past 40 years to reinforce the value of diversity. In our food, in our economy (and our stock portfolios), and in our species. Without diversity, you *will* die. That is just Nature's way, and our guarantee for change and growth through evolution.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood that. And what was most beautiful about this person -- in my mind -- was that he held the strongest of convictions along side of the notion of non-violence. Imagine where we would be today if MLK had taken the path of the Black Panthers. Does anyone really believe we would have achieved more than we, as a nation, has achieved to date?

Non-violence is such a sophisticated and powerful approach. And in the end, it is the only strategy, I believe, that can unite us. And in the end, this is what we need. A recognition that we are not alone, not isolated, but together, and united, and whole.

MLK, as so many luminaries, gave his life for his beliefs and his convictions. We certainly owe him a debt of gratitude and honor, for helping to light the candle and not curse the darkness, and for showing us the way.