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!

humanLove

The Radical Equality of Oneness

crowd-of-peopleI recently watched a spiritual documentary, a movie meant to be inspirational for living our life purpose, which it was.  However, there was this underlying premise that I found kind of bothersome.  Some of the best-selling authors and motivational speakers kept making comments like “Most people live in a trance, unawakened and on auto-pilot.”  There was reference to shopping mall consciousness and the general apathy of the larger part of humanity.  This kind of judgmental attitude towards billions of people on the planet struck me as actually contradictory to living my soul purpose, which is to love my neighbor as my Self.

In order to inspire us to live life to the fullest and really examine our passions and purpose, do we really need to think ill of most people?  It feels kind of like flippantly saying “everything is an illusion” – it is kind of rude.  And it seems not only unkind, but untrue.

5-inspiring-photograph-helpI find that “most people” find ways to express love in their lives – small ways, big ways, medium ways, all kinds of ways.  There are billions of people all over the world who do all kinds of good things – loving their children, supporting local charities, volunteering at local churches, feeding the homeless, giving to the Humane Society, sending care packages to soldiers overseas, donating their old clothes to thrift stores, taking care of their aging parents, helping a neighbor fix their garage door…  I could type all day long and the list would not come to an end.  These are all ways of expressing love and soul purpose.

I guess some best-selling authors or motivational speakers might not see a housewife’s passion for pottery as her fulfilling her purpose or going on her hero’s journey, but it IS her way of centering herself, meditating and putting love into what she does – not just in ceramic coffee cups or vases, but in all her actions as a human citizen.  Why is that “less than” doing a series of success seminars or writing books on how to live your dreams?

man-meditating-black-color-light-SSI also hear this underlying judgment of “most people” in spiritual circles sometimes.  Some of the sweetest most well-meaning people I know talk about how we have to hold the Light for all the un-spiritual people of the world or how we are part of the 2% of those who are focused on awakening.  I am absolutely certain that I have said similar things many times, so in a way I am grateful to this movie for pointing this separation attitude out to me.  I intend to be more conscious, loving and inclusive in the future.

And it might be true that those who meditate on the Light of God hold Light for the whole planet.  I know there are great Masters and yogis in the Himalayas who spend their lives in service to the consciousness of humanity by holding the focus of God in meditation and prayer (though I doubt very much that they look down upon “most people”).  In our kirtan at Chinmaya last weekend, as we were chanting the name of God and proclaiming the victory of Lord Rama I could feel the energy ascending, radiating out in all directions and manifesting the Victory of Love on Earth!  I’m sure that was a good thing.

But there are many good things and many ways that most people hold Love and Light, too.  I want to be careful to not hang on to any subtle separation that divides the 2% from the 98% or creates any kind of us/them thinking or spiritual elite.  I don’t want to go around thinking that meditators are cooler than other people.  I am not separate from my sisters or co-workers or friends, I am not separate from all the kind-hearted people at my church who may not meditate but who have a sincere love for God and who try to be the best neighbors and grandmothers they can be.

parentWe are all part of the world we are creating together and we are all doing our parts to the best of our ability.  Who am I to say that my part is any more important that anyone else’s?  What would happen if all parents in the world stopped loving their children?  What would that do to the vibration of human consciousness?  I can’t even imagine how much upliftment and love all the parents of the world add to humanity!  Is it more or less than the amount of love people on a path of spiritual awakening contribute?

What would happen if all the dogs and cats in the world stopped being cute and opening human hearts to feel love? What would that do to the sum total of love in the world?  For that matter, what would happen if crickets stopped chirping their eternal Om?  How would that change the vibration of the planet?

What would happen if all those people who “just” go to church on Sundays stopped going to church?  If all the millions if not billions of people who go to churches and synagogues and mosques and temples to sing praises and honor God for an hour or two every week stopped doing that?  When I started going to the All Saints Cathedral I’d watch everyone standing in line going up for communion.  Some people would hold their hands in prayer, some people would stand in line glancing around at the people coming and going, but they were all participating in becoming one with the body of Christ.  Who am I to say that the person holding their hands in prayer is worth more spiritually?  Who am I to say that this person is contributing more than that person?  All I see is that something holy is happening and so many people are participating and it makes God happy and it’s 662026beautiful.  It could be that the 98% who focus on God one hour a week do more for human consciousness than the 2% that focus on God 40 hours a week.  I don’t think there is really a way to do the math, but the point is, it’s all good, we’re all contributing love to the world.

We are all an intricate whole.  We are all doing our parts and adding our vibrations of love in our own ways and we are all dependent on each other.  I don’ even know if I COULD  be focused on God or awakening if it wasn’t for all the people in the world loving their sons and daughters or their dogs and cats or their spouses.  If all those billions of people stopped holding love in their hearts and their daily lives, if all the artists and craftsmen of the world stopped putting love into every stitch, would there even be enough love in the world for me to focus on loving God?  Maybe the world would fall into such a low vibration that I would just fall into chaos and despair?  Could I even hope to awaken without everyone else doing their parts in the collective consciousness?

Instead of thinking of “most people” as living in an unconscious trance, I should be grateful to every single one of them for all the ways they help to lift me up!

I read the online bio of one of the speakers in the movie and it said “so-and-so is a major, major player in the spiritual transformation taking place on the planet today.”  It struck me as almost strange to say that.  Is that what we should want?  As a spiritual blogger, peace activist and someone wanting to help all of humanity live in Peace, Love and Happiness, should I, too, strive to be a major, major player?

MLK 1I know that there are great teachers and wondrous leaders in the world, of course, and I admire and love them and am grateful for all their inspiration and the power of their love.  But Martin Luther King could not do what he did without the nameless guy walking behind him, the nameless son of a nameless mother who feared for his life as he marched.  There were thousands of those nameless someones who marched and stood with Martin Luther King in countless unknown ways.  There were also all the nameless people sitting in their living rooms watching the protests, watching the injustice, feeling horrified as the peaceful protesters were beaten and arrested, simply for asking for equality.  Could the world have changed without those people feeling their hearts touched and crying alone in their homes?  Could we have changed our collective consciousness without any part of the whole?  We were all doing our part and in that way Martin Luther King is no greater than the nameless sons and daughters who marched with him or the nameless fathers and mothers who watched with wrenching hearts on the television set.  Or if he is greater, at least he is not separate from any one of us.

I think that if there is anything that makes a great leader great, that makes someone a “major, major player” in our evolution, it is the ability and the humility to see ourselves in all of humanity, to see ourselves as part of a greater whole and to love that wholeness as our Self.  There is a radical equality in Oneness, and to truly hold the Light for the planet is to remove any subtle judgments or separation, to see the beauty and perfection of “most people”, and to simply LOVE.

Sun light love

The Implementation of Dumb Ideas

RENUZIT-500x247In this week’s silly post I’d like to talk about an ad currently running on Hulu for a brand of air-fresheners.  Aside from the fact that air-fresheners contain numerous toxic chemicals that can cause everything from reduced sperm counts to cancer, the ad is really stupid.  It has hunky men carrying air-fresheners in slo-mo, winking at the camera seductively from each room of a house – one in the kitchen, another in the living room and yet another sexy young thing in the bedroom.  The ad goes on to say that while having a different man in every room might be a fantasy, you can in fact have a different toxic scent in each room.

First of all, what woman fantasizes about having a man in every room?  That sounds terrible.  Second of all, the campaign is so ridiculous it makes me want to NOT buy that air freshener, even if I wanted to poison myself with benzene, formaldehyde, styrene, and phthalates. 

1075545_562888983757997_1303988084_oThe thing that gets me about really really bad advertising is that there are so many people involved in the process of actually getting it on TV.  First there are a number of people at the ad agency who come up with the bad idea, then their creative team does a pitch to a company, then the company sends the proposal up the chain of command and who knows how many people sign off on the concept and budget.  Then there are graphic artists, writers, producers, casting agents, actors, make up artists, cameramen, boom mic operators and even key grips, whatever the heck they do.  It must be at least 100 people who take part in producing a really really bad ad.  And nowhere along the line did someone say – STOP.

The same is true for some of the reality TV programming of today.  There are food shows about deep-fried-mac-n-cheese-hamburger-loaf. There are married couples flipping houses and arguing over every remodeling decision along the way.  There are housewives arguing in virtually every metropolitan area of the United States.  There are naked people who are either afraid or shopping or dating, or a combination of all of the above – of course arguing more or less the whole time. There are even horrific things like a man being eaten alive by a snake in some kind of snake-digestive-juice-resistant suit.

In all of these TV shows there are countless people who never say – wait, this is dumb, let’s not do this.

Thirteen Reality 2This ad for an apparently intelligent TV station is actually quite funny and points to the state of our TV entertainment.  I know there are quite a few really good shows out there, also.  There has even been some God centered shows that come and go, like ‘Joan of Arcadia,’ ‘Eli Stone.’ or the awesome good kicks evil’s butt ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’  But sometimes I look at some of the truly dumb ideas that actually manifest themselves as ads and TV shows and I wonder.

I guess it’s kind of like other really dumb ideas, like segregation or women not having the right to vote.  For a long time, they were just accepted and all the boom mic operators and key grips of life didn’t feel it was their place to say anything even if they thought it was a terrible idea.  It took people like Martin Luther King and Susan susan-b-anthony-quote1-300x200B. Anthony to speak up and say – STOP!  Then enough people joined them and said – yeah, I think it’s really dumb, too.  And then the Civil Rights Act and 19th Amendment could happen.

So, I guess, if the awful toxic air-freshener ad has any merit, it is to remind us to speak up against dumb ideas!  Why is racism and sexism still showing up in so many ways in our ads and TV programming and everywhere else in our society?  Why should gay or lesbian human beings have any less rights than any other human being?  How could such a bad idea still even be a thing?  Let’s just stop implementing all these dumb ideas.


hrc-logoPlease consider supporting the Human Rights Campaign – to speak up for equal rights for the LGBT community.

Or support any of the fine organizations listed on the Get Involved page who are working towards ending dumb ideas.