Changing our Consciousness for Chocolate

choc-backI love chocolate, of course.  We all do.  Today just happens to be National Chocolate Day, so it’s obvious that chocolate is appreciated by many.  Maybe it’s because it boosts serotonin levels, somehow causing my brain to produce more of the “happy” neuro-chemical.   Maybe it’s because in my body’s inherent wisdom, I wisely crave the cocoa bean’s antioxidant rich micro-nutrients (though if you’ve ever tasted 100% raw cocoa, you know that’s not true!  yuck).  More likely, it’s because it’s combined with so much sugar and cocoa fat that it stimulates both the yin and the yang ends of the macrobiotic food cravings spectrum.  But whatever the reason, one of life’s little pleasures is enjoying a few bites of a good chocolate bar every once in a while (OK, a lot of bites and on a regular basis).

Young boy rakes cocoa beans on a drying rack.

Young boy rakes cocoa beans on a drying rack.

But the problem is, it’s NOT a simple pleasure.  Nothing is simple anymore.  It turns out that many of the world’s major chocolate companies have been buying their cocoa from Western African cocoa growers who use child slave labor to harvest and process their crops!  Not only that, but when this all came out in 2001, companies like Nestle, Hershey’s and Mars plead ignorance and resisted regulatory laws calling for mandatory “slave free” labeling and pledged to regulate themselves to put an end to this atrocity in their supply chain and to end child slave labor by 2005.  As the linked article states:  “It turned out, they didn’t do much.  It’s 2015 and there are now more child slaves than there were in 2001.  51% more, in fact.  There are now 1.4 million children carrying dark_side_of_chocolate2back-breaking sacks of cacao, having their bodies whipped and beaten and crushing themselves from dawn to dusk for no pay.”

My heart breaks.  I cannot abide by this, I cannot support companies who callously ignore the suffering of innocent people for profit.  I cannot stand to accept a world where this injustice occurs!

So – I did my research and found a list of Slave Free Chocolate companies and I downloaded my Chocolate List app from the Food Empowerment Project.  I went on line and found End Slavery Now and Walk Free and signed ALL their petitions and shared them on Facebook. OK.  Crisis averted.  I can once again enjoy my massive amounts of chocolate slave-free style!

The problem is, this happens with practically EVERYTHING.

This video from Follow the Frog is one of the funniest social action videos I have ever seen.  But it accurately captures what I feel like sometimes.

all-natural-cotton-padsLike the protagonist in this video, I, too, recycle, reduce, reuse, buy organic, eat vegan, think globally and act locally.  I even use non-disposable menstrual pads and Thinx period panties, ok?  I menstruate consciously!

IMG_5534_b_largeSometimes I just feel like it shouldn’t be so hard to be a good person in this world!  It shouldn’t be so complicated to buy food or goods without being a part of atrocities perpetuated on fellow humans or innocent voiceless animals.  It shouldn’t be a full time job to make sure that my daily actions aren’t contributing to environmental catastrophes or unspeakable labor crimes.

I can’t buy that $5 t-shirt at Wal-Mart without supporting both unfair wages in the U.S. and abusive child-labor in Bangladesh.  So, I buy a $32 t-shirt from Sudara made by women rescued from sex slavery.

The only fast-food joint I can go to is Chipotle without contributing to massive factory farm animal cruelty and the toxification of low-income food choices.  It’s not even safe to buy “Cage-Free” eggs, because the factory farms simply removed the metal cages, Perdue-chickensand instead cram the living birds into barns so full that the chickens still can’t spread their wings, go outside or live any semblance of a normal chicken life.  And even “Certified Organic” eggs only guarantee each hen a space of 18 square inches and kill those chicks unfortunate enough to be hatched male in a grinder, so I just gave up and decided to go vegan.

I can’t buy craft supplies from Hobby Lobby because their owners are imposing their personal religious beliefs about birth control onto their thousands of female employees who are grown-ass-women and should be able to make their own decisions about their own lady parts with their own lady brains.  I can’t even donate money to charitable organizations supposedly set up to help people without checking them on something like The Charity Navigator or I might support something as benign sounding as the Children’s Charity Fund where only 9.1% of their donations actually help the children!

So, I end up having one app for slave-free chocolate, another app for Humane Eating, the Good Guide app for checking product ethical scores and a whole list of Top Ten Socially Responsible apps.  If 13 apps aren’t enough for you, here is a list of 83.  But I just can’t use 96 apps every time I make a purchase!  It’s enough to drive you crazy.  But what’s the alternative?  Apathy is not an option.  Endless senseless suffering is not acceptable.

Truly, the only way out of this insanity is to change our society as a whole – to change our collective consciousness!  And before you say I’m a dreamer – it IS possible!

Farmer-working-on-the-fieldRecently, I spent 10 days in my native Sweden.  It was lovely.  For many reasons.  One being that I felt like I could go about my life without trying SO HARD to make conscious decisions that wouldn’t destroy the environment or harm people and animals around the world.

I could drink the tap water knowing that it didn’t contain anything toxic, and it even tasted delicious!  I didn’t have to refill my BPA free 5 gallon jugs with filtered water to combat the American plastic water bottle frenzy. I didn’t have to bring my recyclables home from work to be sure they don’t end up in a landfill.  Sweden recycles EVERYTHING and less than 1% of it’s trash ends up in landfills – and this is how the whole system is set up, it’s not done by counter-culture activists. plastic-bottles Sweden enacted a Farm Animal Bill of Rights in 1988 and every animal in the country has a legal right to be outside each day.  The agencies that regulate food and consumer products actually work to protect people’s health – in Sweden and most European countries, there are nearly 1400 chemicals that are not allowed in face creams for health and safety standards while the U.S. has banned only eleven.

And yes, Sweden still has societal issues, prejudices and growing discrimination towards refugees.  But overall, I felt like I could relax!  I felt like I was surrounded by a general consciousness of care, compassion and common sense!  And I felt like I wouldn’t unknowingly contribute to cruelty and greed if I didn’t check my 96 apps.  And like Bernie says, we can learn from how other societies like Sweden and Denmark have implemented societal change.

So, we can do the same in the US.  We can do the same worldwide!  It’s about LOVE.  It’s about recognizing that we as humans mostly WANT to do good.  Most people are good people.  And we can all start making the world a more peaceful place one person at a time and we can insist that our social and economic systems reflect the basic human values that any normal person would attest to.  We can change our “business as usual” to be more like socially advanced countries and not accept anything less.  We can educate each other and love one another.

josiah-love-lyraAt our core, humanity is GOOD and we are meant to love our neighbors and to fill this world with millions of examples of God’s Love because we are made in God’s image – we have LOVE at the center of our beings.

This morning, on National Chocolate Day, I read yesterday’s Richard Rohr Daily Meditation on Martin Luther King, Jr. where he wrote:

The problem is not first of all “the flesh” or personal sin, but systemic evil and structural, disguised violence. As King writes: “It is evil we are seeking to defeat, not the persons victimized by evil. Those of us who struggle against racial injustice must come to see that the basic tension is not between races. . . . The tension is at bottom between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. . . . At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love. . . .” Like Gandhi, King was hopeful because he saw God’s love as the foundation of existence…. We must never forget that there is something within human nature that can respond to goodness, that man is not totally depraved; to put it in theological terms, the image of God is never totally gone.

I-love-humanity-photo-by-shankboneSo, as I adjust my chocolate habit to conform with the love in my heart that truly cares for children in Africa I have never met – I remind myself that changing our consciousness is the radical solution that gets to the root of the problem.  And instead of despairing or tearing my hair out, I can fill my heart with love and have my hair, and every other part of me, express compassion!  I can have my emotional impact and my actions reflect love.  Empathy is our natural state – it’s in our neurons and our DNA.  Peace is possible.   Evil is like pee in the ocean of good.  And Love always wins!


The Spiritual Politics of Peace and Guns

635793191437715269-AP-APTOPIX-OREGON-SCHOOL-SHOOTING-76403036Last week when we had yet another tragic mass shooting, as my heart was breaking once more I wanted to write something about this, I wanted to do more than posting quotes and stats about gun violence on Facebook, but I hesitated because I thought – this is a spiritual blog, I write about mystical experiences or soul realizations, I don’t want to be “political” or write about something that is “controversial” or that “polarizes” people, I’m not one to write vitriol against the NRA or engage in heated debates on reinterpretations of the 2nd amendment.

Then I remembered what my friend the college religion professor Dr. Timothy Johnson said in preparing for our International Day of Peace panel discussion:  The Franciscan way of creating Peace means that you have to be in the middle of conflict.  You can’t run and hide from it, you can’t cloister yourself away from the world and pray “make me an instrument of Thy Peace.”  Francis wanted to be in the midst of the poor and the suffering, he found God’s Peace in the midst of the violence of poverty and war.  6a00d8341c3e3953ef00e5503a8a1c8834-500wiIn Richard Rohr’s book ‘Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi‘, he tells how Francis made 3 trips to the Middle East during his life time (before trains or planes or automobiles) and historians always assumed that he was trying to convert the Sultan to Christianity, but documents now show that he actually went there to urge the Christians to stop killing their Muslim brothers and sisters.  He walked himself into the middle of the conflict to be a voice for Peace.  To be an instrument of God’s Peace, one has to place oneself in the middle of the muck of it – the pain, the confusion, the controversy, the anger, the violence – and answer it all with Peace.  The prayer goes “where there is hatred, let me sew love.”

In reality – everything is spiritual.  And everything is political.  There is no separation.  We are all a part of the living organism that is our collective consciousness, our world society and our Mother Earth.  Who we vote for is not separate from how our earth’s resources are used, how people all around the world are treated or how our society evolves into either more peace or more violence – and the politics of peace and guns is no exception.

120703074240-norden-voting-rights-story-topOne of my dearest closest friends once told me that she didn’t vote because the whole system is so corrupt that she didn’t want to take part in it.  But we ARE a part of it – every one of us is a part of the sociopolitical system we live in just by being alive.  We participate in it every day with our every thought and action.  A non-vote IS a vote.  A non-vote is passively condoning the corruption instead of actively voting FOR something better.  As Martin Luther King put it during the Civil Rights movement: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” We might not be monks choosing between hiding away in cloisters or marching into the Crusades to be a voice for peace, but we can’t hide away in our “spirituality” or our “counter-culture” and say we don’t want to participate – we have to DO something.

As President Obama said in his speech after the mass shooting in Oregon last week: “This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America.  We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.”  If you haven’t already, you can see the full speech at the bottom of this page.  And along with President Obama, I ask:  What will it take for us to take responsibility for change?  Even the mass shooting of innocent little elementary school children at Sandy Hook hasn’t moved us as a society to make change.

Yesterday, even People magazine, usually dedicated to celebrity splits and the top ten fashion fails, published an editor’s letter urging readers to contact US lawmakers about gun control and posted the contact information for ALL 535 voting members of the House and Senate.  So, please visit their site and find your law makers and contact them to make sure they hear your voice.  11930746_671165486317614_1036681546252576810_oOur elected officials work “for the people,” so let People magazine be a reminder to us all of that very important fact.

You see, we CAN do something about this.  Humanity can evolve.  Through our internal consciousness and our outward acts of conscience, we DO change the world.  And the politics of peace and guns are an inherent part of our social responsibility.

This is reiterated by Ram Dass, who unlike his fellow Harvard acid tripping colleague Timothy Leary, didn’t urge us to “drop out.”

“One of the systems we’re part of, of course, is the political system. We may wish we weren’t part of it often, but we are… The political system is a system in which you are a member whether you like it or not. You’re part of a government, and your not voting is voting. So there’s no way out. You can’t say, “I’m not going to have anything to do with politics.” You can say it, but you’ve got to watch where you’re saying it from. You may say, “I’m not going to get involved with politics because I am so busy with something else that I think is my dominant theme, and I’ll vote, but I’m not going to put my time into campaigning for candidates and issues, because my energies are best used here.” That’s fine. If you’ve thought it through and can look somebody in the eye and say it.  If you’re saying, “I’m not having anything to do with politics because it’s too dirty and because I don’t approve of it,” forget it – you are abdicating your responsibility to society. It’s as simple as that.

We’re at an interesting moment within the shift of collective consciousness, specifically around the way in which we’re integrating the changes in power structures… How is the shift in collective consciousness going to evolve and what part do you play?”

– Ram Dass, October, 1995

So, there is a lot that a caring and common sense society can do about gun violence – in our culture, our consciousness AND our politics.

11990497_1026449340710264_6581593137798789056_nThis is seen in any number of other practical ways in our society.  When children died by being trapped in an old discarded refrigerator, we enacted laws to make the manufacturing and disposal of refrigerators safer – a there was no National Refrigeration Association lobbying to block these safety measures.  In order to combat the death and injury caused by auto accidents we enacted seat belt laws and in order to drive a car, one must have a license proving competency, one must have current registration, and we get fines and even jail time for breaking our social covenant to keep each other safe on the road.  Why can we not do the same exact thing for guns?

In Australia, after a gunman opened fire on a crowd of tourists in Port Arthur, Tasmania, killing 35 people in 1996, the government enacted bipartisan gun control laws.  Banning assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons and putting stricter controls on hand guns and rifles.  In the decade before the

People take part in candle light vigil following a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola

People take part in candle light vigil following a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola

Port Arthur massacre, there had been 11 mass shootings in the country.  There hasn’t been a single one in Australia since.  And not only has there not been mass shootings – gun related homicides and gun suicides have decreased dramatically, as well, without a corresponding rise in other methods of killing self or other. And San Francisco, who led the way on gay marriage long before it was supported by the vast majority of Americans, is leading the way now with common-sense gun regulations that could one day also be the law of our entire nation.

There are numerous studies documenting how gun control laws work – and yet the NRA and the American gun culture won’t even entertain the most common sense of gun controls – such as requiring background checks nationwide or simply following the same guidelines at gun shows.  States have no problem enacting 72 hour wait periods and mandatory vaginal probes for women seeking an abortion – but somehow asking for a wait period on a gun sale is an invasion of our God-given rights?

President Obama, People magazine and the host of every news show on TV are becoming sad and disgusted at how frequently they have to roll out the same “we are in shock and mourning” routine.  And we’re not even shocked anymore.  In one data graphic compilation, it shows that between Jan 1, 2013 and Oct 1, 2015, there was a mass shooting – defined as four or more people shot in one incident – nearly every day.  There were 994 mass shootings in 1004 days in this country.  Clearly, something is very wrong and something needs to be done.  Now.

reagan-assault-weapons-gun-safetyAnd the thing that really makes NO SENSE whatsoever about the total gridlock and unwillingness to even LOOK at any viable solutions is that no one is even suggesting that we remove the right to own guns altogether or that homeowners can’t buy a handgun to protect themselves against intruders (even though said gun is statistically more likely to harm a member of the family itself).  But even a ban on the purchase of assault rifles is considered an unacceptable step on the imaginary “slippery slope” to dictatorship.  When will the massive amount of people dying to gun violence become unacceptable?  The 33,636 people who died from gun homicides and suicides in just the year 2013 are REAL, not imaginary.

In President Obama’s speech, he challenged the media to compare deaths from gun violence with deaths from terrorism in the US – to show the completely illogical, nonsensical failure to even look at gun reform.  “We spent over a trillion dollars, and passed countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so,” Obama said. “And yet we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?”

This graph shows only 2004-20013

This graph shows only 2004-20013

According to numbers from the CDC and State Department, between 2001 and 2013, there were 3,030 American Citizens killed by acts of terrorism worldwide (and this includes those who died at the Twin Towers) and 406,496 deaths from gun violence just on American soil.  With those numbers, how could the Congress pass a ban on the CDC even doing research on gun violence?  Yes – the US government is not only NOT enacting gun reform – it is cementing our ignorance into law – literally making the pursuit of knowledge about gun deaths by federal agencies illegal.   Isn’t it time we start making sense?

Love_PeaceThis is not a time to not participate in politics.  If you truly believe in Oneness Consciousness, then take action for change in our society.  This is a time to bring REAL PEACE to the front line of American gun culture and to change our consciousness and our politics – and if the sitting senators and representatives won’t do it – it’s time to change our politicians.  It’s time to vote.  It’s time to be a voice.  It’s time to BE the Peace.  It’s time to be engaged in the spiritual politics of peace and guns.


WATCH John Oliver’s Daily Show segment on Australia’s gun law reform.

And as my vote of confidence in the new host of the Daily Show – here is a video of Trevor Noah’s take on the hipocracy of being Pro-Life and Anti-Gun-Control:

Further reading and practice:

President Obama’s speech: