Before you sleep

Lay me to sleep under the setting sun,
Forget-me-nots growing beneath my closed eyelids,
I am the restless sleep that haunts most nights,
Smoke twanging guitar chords in your eardrums,
Don’t forget me in your moonlit slumber,
My shadow stretched long across your door,
Every dream is just a strange story we tell ourselves,
About all the things we have yet to know,
so breathe easy as the twilight comes,
Watch the sky wash with indigo, like a veil pulled over your eyes,
Do not count your worries like beads on a rosary,

instead count your blessings the way you can infinitely count the stars,
There’s so much magic in the moments we re-live lost loved ones,
Besides, your restless soul cannot imagine,
all the beauty you have not seen.

my architecture

I have learned to precariously balance hope like a poorly built skyscraper,
Made of withered flowers and pencil shavings,
And every childhood dream I gave enough room to breath,
My heartbeat is the rumbling roar of bumblebees and the whispers of hummingbird wings,
My happiness the rose petal pink of a blood blushing sunset,
I carry the history of a far away place in the brownness of my skin, but not in the language on my tongue,
I have spent more time searching for myself outside my own country than in it,
I chase after some meaning in who I am, the same way birds fly south for the winter,
An instinctive desire for movement that I still can’t decipher,
I have created homes out of backpacks and between bookcovers, discovered the deepest of loves in the shortest of seconds,
I fear I love too fiercely for my own good, the same way flames do the forests they burn down,
I don’t know how to be halfway myself,
This uncontrollable storm of chaos and kindness, loveliness and rage,
I have found myself struggling to swim in the shallowest of waters,
Unable to simply stand up to my sea of insecurities,
Life taught me to question everything I thought I knew,
Only to re-learn the entirety of the world, over and over again,
I have learned that loss is just as much a part of life as love,
I have learned that the shape of the world is no different than the clenched curvatures of a woman’s fist,
And I have learned the tricky truth about movement, is that walking too far in one direction only leads you back to the exact same place.
Humans were not meant to live in nostalgia, but to rebuild new homes inside of themselves, like every flower that fought to grow between the bricks of fallen rubble,
So I will seek solace in the solitude inside my own skin,
And I will take this hummingbird heart, my wilted flowers, and every lesson I have learned,
To every new horizon, until I finally manage to run out of ways to rediscover myself.

Sunset mantra

Let happiness heal you, in all the ways it knows how,
a way of becoming that only time will allow,

Observe the pattern of the universe, in the chime of a bell,
in the flutter of a bird’s wings, in the shape of a shell,

Breathe through your lungs, feel the earth like a stone,
drink sacred water to light fire in your bones.

You are not merely flesh, pumped to life with only blood,
you are mountains of memories, carved of chaos, called to love.

Seek not your imperfections, but the beauty you entail,
your secret subtleties that hide the bliss behind the veil.

You are constantly creating the person you become,
A force to be reckoned with, not known to just the young.

To know yourself is to love yourself, the truth that must be written,
to sell your soul, to feel your whole, was not sold to us as fiction.

So continue causing galaxies across the universe,
create positive vibrations with a future you re-word.

You are more than just a moment someone taught you to rehearse,
you contain divine intention that can truly change the world.

Photo c/o Jonathan H. Lee 

Of loss & love

Remember that loss is just as much a part of life as love.

Do not let the weathered storms make you weary, but recognize the unfathomable majesty of the ocean in the salt of your tears.

Celebrate the darkest winters, each brittle brown leaf that fell from the tree, as much as the rains of the new spring, the birth of new life from the ground beneath your feet.

Life is nothing but the endless cycle of destruction and creation, from the beginning to cremation. 

I am molded by every love that has filled my life with meaning, even the ones that have left.

I accept death the same way the tides recede and return to the shore, and I love everything in this life the same way the sun gives life to a flower without asking anything in return. 

Hey kid

Hey kid, I hope you realize being cool on the internet doesn’t actually mean anything.

So stop measuring your self-worth in non-existent binary and start asking yourself what really matters.

Do you know the color of your own happiness? Is it a burning red, or a brilliant blue, serene green cascade or a sunset yellow?

Do you know how to be alone without the click of a camera shutter?

Do you know what your identity looks like, when it’s not listed as resume bullet points?

Do you know how loud your heartbeat is in complete silence?

Do you recognize the salt of the ocean in the drops of your tears?

Do you know how to love a stranger?

Do you know how to give to someone who owes you nothing?

Do you know how to be yourself when no one’s watching?

Sustainability Awareness Workshop

Education Program Update at the Nawalpur School from Conscious Impact on Vimeo.

Exciting video updates from the Education team here at Conscious Impact! We taught a workshop on waste management and environmental sustainability to 7th graders at a local secondary school. Hope to continue doing work like this in the months to come. Shout outs to my awesome partner-in-crime Ellen Stewart for making it happen

As always, thank you to Jonathan H. Lee / Subtledream Photography for all that you do documenting and sharing this work for the world to see 🙂

 

PEMA SEMMA

Will be sharing a curation of some of my favorite poetry I’ve stumbled upon in the past few weeks. This one is by a famous Tibetan poet named Chögyam Trungpa, dear friend of Allen Ginsberg, from his book First Thought Best Thought, a collection of 108 poems. I’d explain why it is I love it so much, but it’s one you really just have to read for yourself to understand.

How small can you be?
So tiny that you can’t even talk or think.
How big can you be?
So big that you can’t think or talk.
Desert hounds are said to be tough
But, looking at their own ancestral skulls,
They could become painfully wretched.
Come, Come, said the young woman,
Come with me to the mountains
Where the heathers, rhododendrons, tamarisks and snowflakes grow.
Her hair fluttered by the cool mountain air
Which is so fresh,
Her lips and eyelids quivering at the freshness she experiences,
Sunbeam reflecting on the side of her face
Portrays a lady of life.
As she turns her head
From the little irritation of long flowing hair
She says, Mmmm.
But on the other hand she is somewhat perturbed;
Not knowing whether she is glamorous or ugly,
Begging for confirmations right and left,
Stil listening to the distant flute of her past present future.
Is she wretched?
Is she fabulous?
Thundering heartbeat in her chest,
Riding the horse of jealousy at a million miles a minute–
Could someone fall in love with her?
Could she be the world’s monumental femininity?
Is she the possible hag
Who eats living chrysanthemums or dead bees?
Winding highway to the Continental Divide,
Snake coiling for its own purpose,
Tortoise carrying heavy-duty shell with meaningful walk,
Red silk rustled,
Hearty blue-blood aristocracy
With its blue ribbon blown in the wind
From the palace window–
Is this such a woman as deserves a coronation ceremony attended by the galaxies, the stars and the world of yes and no?
Is she such a woman as is never hampered by dirty, greasy, bullfighter, manslaughtering, unworthy man?
I wonder whether she has tasted her blood
Or her nectar.
Glory be to our Queen!
Lust is for everybody, by the gallons;
Envy is for one, who picks and chooses
Like a woodpecker digging after one worm.

However, everybody’s a lover–
Let’s celebrate in love!

7 March 1975

Learn to let go

I think now’s the time for me to let go,
Plant these new seeds and take care what I sow,
Forget all the things I thought that I knew,
Redefine what I once memorized to be true,
I have loved and I’ve lost, in different amounts,
burned by flames, turned to ashes more than I can count,
turned my heartache to beauty, my tears into songs,
kept the lessons they left me long after they’d gone,
became comfortable with the silence of only myself,
learned to love all my secrets I could tell no one else.
I’ve learned of uncertainty, its power and grace,
that the only way to move forward is to embrace your fate.

I am the sunrise and sunset of every new day,
I do not fear death, by pumping love in my veins,
I want to be loved, the way the sun loves the shadows,
love like the ocean from its depths to its shallows,
My loneliness gives me strength, the same way glaciers make mountains,
I am buried with blessings, more than I can count them,
I will not mourn my losses, as if that’s all I know,
each one gave me strength and a new way to grow,
I will ignite my soul, in all the ways that I know,
& to master this power, I will learn to let go.

In solidarity with women everywhere 

#WomensMarch Spoken Word from Jonathan H. Lee on Vimeo.

A poem I wrote a few days ago, inspired by the energy of my fellow sisters marching all over the world today. I am with you in solidarity from my little corner of Nepal.

Huge thank you to my brilliant friend Jonathan H. Lee for executing his vision and helping immortalize this piece on video. Check out more of his amazing work at www.subtledream.com

How to learn to embrace uncertainty

As someone who has chosen to dedicate a formidable amount of time to volunteering on a development project, I have been asked many a time to sum up as simply as possible the nature of this work. The world of humanitarian aid is quite complex, in ways that I have even yet to scratch the surface of.

Though I go through phases of posting on social media, I realize I sometimes do little to inform people of the actual work I do in Nepal. So here goes:

In June of last year we finished constructing a 6 room primary school with CSEBs (Compressed Stabilized Earth Blocks). This is a sustainable building method that uses soil and a small amount of cement, and can be produced locally by hand with relatively cheap machinery. Our team of paid Nepali staff and volunteers produce these bricks because older, traditional methods of building homes with stone and mud is not earthquake safe, as well as the fact that the more the ubiquitous Bhaktapur bricks 1) cannot be built with re-bar to create earthquake resistant buildings, and 2) contribute to the major deforestation problem in Nepal due to being cured by wood fire.

At present we are constructing a community center using the same building technology, as well as a local orphanage that will house 18 children who lost their family in the earthquake. In partnership with another earth building team called Back2Earth, we are constructing an office for a women’s cooperative using rammed earth technology, which will function as a skills-building and micro-finance center in our district. In the very near future, we will begin constructing an earth bag home for a local widow a few minutes south from where we currently live.

Equally important, our agriculture program aims to provide a space to practice experimental permaculture technologies with traditional Nepali farming methods. We aim to support local farmers in cultivating more financially viable crops, such as fruit trees and coffee. We hope to empower local farmers by partnering and mentoring them on successfully growing these plants. We have the privilege of learning from hundreds of years of traditional Nepali agricultural practices and implementing them in ways locals have not had the opportunity to try, considering they rely solely on the income from crops they’ve grown for generations (like corn, millet, flour) that produce consistently high yields.

Over time, we’ve also developed an education program, where we engage local primary schools with weekly lessons that give particular focus to sustainability and environmental awareness, as well as creating an environment for young people that encourages critical thinking, creativity, confidence, and teamwork outside the engrained rote style of government teaching.

Whew. Okay, there’s your pretty, bullet-point style elevator pitch.

And it is all undeniably great, life-fulfilling work. My decision to be here, to live in this country for months at a time, to have asked for your support and your money, means that not only have I asked you to believe in this work, but I have asked you to believe in me.

But there’s something I want to be honest about. The truth of the matter is that there is no sure bet everything will go exactly according to plan. Since the beginning of our time here, we have hit road blocks, time and again. Rather than overcoming them completely, we have learned to adapt to the given situation, to let go of attachment to what we thought or hoped would happen, and in this, discovered more fruitful paths for us to walk.

There has, and always will be, a level of uncertainty. This is because we are not here as saviors to help people. We are here to work together, to build a better future for one another, with shared values and shared hard work. It may be us as foreigners who have the privilege to raise money, to work and live here without pay — but it is the intensely humble, always gracious, and immensely kind Nepali people who have chosen to trust us and take risks with us, which has allowed this project to flourish into something deeper and bigger than we could have ever imagined.

While explaining some of the complexities and conflicts we’ve encountered to friends and family at home, I was met with some indignant responses, posed with the question, “Why don’t people want your help?”

Building in the way we have chosen is a foreign technology. Some of the ways we’ve chosen to grow plants seem quite strange. Engaging children in non-structural, play environments is something most village teachers have never been exposed to before. To ask people who have lived a completely different reality, who have only known what it means to work to survive rather than to live for themselves, is asking a lot.

Other times, people have asked me with skepticism, whether we are actually helping people. The truth is, we may not have concrete proof that validates any lasting difference we’ve made in this community for years to come. Development work is not a simple or one-dimensional trajectory. You can come distribute supplies after a disaster (which is still critically important immediately after), but what happens to the people in the years following? How do you create sustainable infrastructures that don’t just give someone a temporary fix, but allow someone to empower and support themselves for the rest of their lives? As you may realize, this is not an easy question to try to answer.

We can continue to measure, as best we can in the coming months and even years, with numbers and statistics. Even then, the human element of it all is a bit more complex than a scholarly report can convey.

In choosing to be here, I have learned to let go of attachment to one desired outcome. I don’t choose to be here knowing that everything will go exactly as we hope. There is a necessary self-awareness in this work, in questioning the motivations for my actions everyday, in being cognizant of what I am capable of, in giving all of myself in a way that is both selfless and self-serving at the same time. There is a fine line between recklessness and bravery, and I walk that line with both appropriate concern and intense contentment.

And if you have taken the time to read all this, you may wonder how any of it applies to you. Yes, you!

Because at this point in time, you may be weighing a plethora of your own decisions. I’ve had countless conversations with amazing people in the 20 days I’ve been in Nepal, many times about how painstakingly consumed we are with wanting to make the right decisions — not just for ourselves, but for our careers, for our relationships, for our families. I have struggled a lot in my life with wanting things because I thought it would give me exactly what I wanted. I know I mention this a lot and at this point might sound a bit like a broken record, but I can’t get over how important this lesson has been throughout the past 2 years of my life. It’s a lesson I continue learning, in different contexts that continue to surprise me, time and time again.

Will that job make you happy? Will moving to a new city help you grow? Will investing time in your chosen passion make you talented? Will that person love you back? Will the work I do here create the lasting change I want to see in the world? The uncomfortable truth is that you will never know before you decide to try. And you need to be willing to, or you’re never going to find out.

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