Salmon gathering

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I had a dream in the early hours this morning – an Earth Day dream.

Near my office—we’re somewhere northern—closer to the Arctic Circle.

Salmon gathering,

next to my friend’s office window,

in the river that ran clear past by the office building—

under a train bridge,

parallel to a turning train line.

Stood with my kids while we visited.

All so amazed!

Took out cameras to video the salmon run.

People are in with the salmon.

All so amazed!

Train comes by—whooshes through the salmon.

I’m on the train:

video still rolling,

young folks in bucket seats laughing and chatting and

So amazed!

About the salmon they’ve just trailed through.

The power is in the train,

with the kids;

the power isn’t with the salmon.

The salmon’s power transferred to the young kids on the train.

We’re sitting in the laps of the young kids who are holding the salmon-power.

 

-Maia

www.maiakumarigilman.com

p.s. This Earth Day, we are celebrating a birthday with a sleepover of young salmon-power-holders. Not marching. Just celebrating.

 

 

March for Science

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Tomorrow is the March for Science, coincident with Earth Day. I’ve been a fan of the “Every Day is Earth Day” mentality for a long time and so to recognize this particular Earth Day as unique, is a mindshift. It is unique. It is a day to focus on the direction we want to go.

To that end, I dialogued with multiple-award-winning eco-Interior Designer Tracey Stephens of Tracey Stephens Interior Design, Inc.: EcoSmart Kitchens & Baths about recent proposed cuts to the US federal government’s Energy Star program, operated by the Environmental Protection Agency, and the direction in which we might choose to go as a result of such cuts. Tracey’s passion about the March for Science and the overlap of our interests in green design spurred us to a dialogue about those proposed cuts around the corner for the EPA.

These are our back-and-forth questions and answers.

tracey stephens - large pic
Vintage-style bath by Tracey Stephens

Maia: Tell me in a couple of sentences about your work.

Tracey: Using my 25 years of interior design experience, I help homeowners bring their vision to life by creating kitchens & bathrooms that reflect who they are and how they really live. From space planning to selecting cabinets, tile and other finishes, my goal is to turn the daunting task of renovation into a fun journey. And with my background in green design, my interiors make the planet happy, too.

Maia: What kinds of products do you specify?

Tracey: I specify both building materials such as non-toxic stone sealer, formaldehyde-free insulation, and LED lighting and finish materials such as cabinetry, appliances and tile. I find my clients are eager to choose healthy products that don’t harm the environment so my job is to stay informed and share with them what’s available. I refer my kitchen clients to appliance showrooms — the technology changes so frequently I rely on my network of experts to help them. People also really want to avoid adding to the landfills so I coordinate donations of items like old kitchen cabinets or bathroom sinks to places like Habitat For Humanity. If something is too worn or broken I use a construction debris recycling company that grinds up materials into either alternative wood fuel (lumber and paper) or road paving materials (toilets, tile, concrete).

Maia: How do you use ratings systems as a guide for making product recommendations to clients?

Tracey: Product information can be very technical and vetting very time consuming so I rely on ratings systems evaluations. I prefer 3rd party certification to guide my decisions on what to recommend for example Forest Stewardship Council to ensure that cabinetry lumber has been responsibly harvested and GreenGuard for indoor air quality. But I have not found FSC certified kitchen cabinets within my New Jersey 500 mile radius so I buy from companies who participate in the Environmental Stewardship Program of the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (2nd party certification).

Maia: What do you think of the Energy Star rating system? How have you used it in the past?

Tracey: I’m a big fan of the Energy Star program.  It’s an easy way for the average person to compare products while shopping. In a nod to the program’s popularity and recognition, many websites now have a search function that allows the buyer to select only Energy Star products.

Since its launch in 1991 starting with rating light bulbs, the voluntary program has grown to include office equipment, heating/cooling, audio/visual equipment, windows and appliances and even certification of buildings. Since 1992, the EPA reports that the Energy Star program has helped families and businesses save an impressive $430 billion on utility bills, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2.7 billion metric tons.

Maia: What options do you see available instead of using the Energy Star system?

Tracey: If there is no independent rating system then the average consumer will have only the information from a company rating its own product which I do not feel confident about. Trade associations will likely step up with more 2nd party certifications. Consumers and designers will still want to know about the environmental impact of the products they’re buying.

Maia: How do you feel about the proposed elimination of the Energy Star system?

Tracey: Protecting the environment used to be a bi-partisan issue with wide support. The EPA was created under Republican President Richard Nixon in 1970. While not surprising considering Trump’s campaign rhetoric, it is infuriating to hear Budget Director Mulvaney say “We’re not spending money on [climate change] anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money.” The Trump proposal to slash the EPA budget by 31% and eliminate 56 of its programs is short sighted. As part of the Climate Protection Program, the Energy Star program is on the chopping block, along with the Green Power Partnership (encouraging the use of renewable energy).

Fortunately there are many manufacturers, states and countries who have committed to sustainability regardless of which US administration is in power. For example, California will not roll back fuel economy standards.

Maia: What recommendations do you have for other designers in light of this proposed change?

Tracey:

For designers who care about sustainability, and honestly that should be all people everywhere, it is time to become an environmental activist.

If the federal government is going to roll back protections and programs we need to push our state governments to step up. I’m very hopeful about the state of New Jersey right now. An exciting new broad-based coalition of labor, faith, social justice, community and environmental organizations has launched Jersey Renews to urge our NJ elected officials to act now in support of climate justice, clean energy and good green jobs. And the People’s Climate March on April 29 in DC is going to be massive! We have at least 6 buses going for the day from Montclair. Click here to sign up to join a bus ride to Washington this weekend.

Maia: What recommendations do you have for legislators in light of this proposed change?

Tracey: Legislators at the local, state and national level need to reject climate denial and big business profits at the expense of our health and safety. And we the constituents need to encourage our legislators to support the crucial work of protecting our nation’s climate, people and natural resources, and hold them accountable. So please sign this petition urging Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R- NJ11), chair of Budget Appropriations Committee, to maintain the EPA’s full funding!

Maia: What could be an upside to this proposed change, that others might not have seen yet, and that you have a unique perspective on to share with other design professionals? What is your big picture scenario?

Tracey:

Since so many of us feel under attack, we are galvanized and energized to act.

Maia: There’s one last thing I would add to your big picture thinking scenario, and it comes directly from your website. It’s quote from Sufi poet Rumi, and I think if we step out with this attitude blazing forth, we will find a path to a new system, or way of thinking of these systems:

Walk out like someone suddenly born into color. Do it now. -Rumi

Tracey can be reached in Montclair, NJ at:

Tracey Stephens Interior Design, Inc.
EcoSmart Kitchens & Baths
973-202-8130
www.traceystephens.com

Let us know if you attend a March for Science near you!

Postscript from Maia:

I am personally very moved by these marches, although I won’t be able to attend this Saturday. Instead, I created two resources to share.

One: a printable poster in support of the March for Science (spoiler: includes a poem by me): https://www.maiakumarigilman.com/downloads

Two: a resource base online, of many of the US government’s energy and climate-related PDF documents: https://www.maiakumarigilman.com/resources

climate resources

As my website says,

These PDF files are archived US federal government documents relevant to architects, engineers and planners with energy and climate-related interests in historic preservation, community planning and disaster mitigation.

This is not a complete list and we do not have any further information about the files. Consider these archived/cached internet files that you may download and use in your work. Click on an image and then “Go to link” to access, then save to download.

-Maia

www.maiakumarigilman.comauthor of The Erenwine Agenda: a novel

One more sleep…

THE ERENWINE RELEASE POSTER WITH REVIEWS (1)

 

The Erenwine Agenda will be available for you to read tomorrow!

For those who have asked:

  • It is available to pre-order now. Pre-ordering counts toward first-day sales figures.
  • It is available on Kindle. As part of the Kindle Unlimited program, I will be paid half a cent (yes) per page you read. So please read to the end and tell everyone to read it too!
  • You can read Kindle on pretty much any device these days including smartphones, laptops, etc. Just need to download the Kindle app.
  • This is the first edition. There will be a second edition in the fall, designed by the multi-talented Lori Dalvi, and it will be a print edition available through distributor Ingram.
  • Yes, this took a long time. Six years! It seems like it happened quickly to those who’ve joined the conversation recently, but – not really. It’s been a long and slow process that has had to do with:
  • researching;
  • writing;
  • editing;
  • connecting with the right people to help it launch;
  • me being personally ready to launch it, and;
  • the world being ready to receive it.

If you enjoy this book, please do put up a starred review on both Amazon and Goodreads. There is an alchemical mix between the algorithms of the two sites that only a few people understand!

Much love to all who follow,

Maia

www.maiakumarigilman.com

www.aseiarts.com

This is the new playground: this is the leading edge.

BearcampPond_MaiaKumariGilman

When I’m in alignment with inner and outer ways of being, the work flows well and so do the solutions to pressing problems. These solutions don’t always come at once, or even in ways that are readily apparent as they emerge. They come piece by piece and they form a pattern, one that can be discerned only by standing back and taking a big picture view of their trajectory from problem to solution.

Two years ago, I wrote a blog post called “The Dalai Lama, Climate Change and Joy.” I had my views on this merging of ideas brought full circle in the last month or so when I began following a Dutch climate diplomat on his various social media channels. I can’t remember what originally attracted me to his Instagram feed. I might have come to it through Twitter. I don’t remember. I was certainly drawn to his travel photos.

The travel photos reflected a certain clarity and spark. A spark that reflected a crackle of joy from the core of the inner being of the person who was taking and sharing the images. That’s what got me hooked. One of his photos, he shared when he was going to give a talk, a climate talk, in Uppsala, Sweden. He’s based in Sweden now. He said he’d rewritten the talk to suit the current political climate and that he was weaving in some kind of approach to “alternative facts.”

Being in the United States myself, the home of our current State of Alternative Facts, I was now triply interested.

  1. I was interested in the beautiful and clear perspective of the travel photos.
  2. I was interested in this reframing of climate diplomatic dialogue through a European lens and with an eye to where I live.
  3. I sensed that there was an alignment of the inner travel photographer with the outer work of the climate diplomat and I became curious to know how those two parts might combine to illuminate a path to a new climate-solutions trajectory.

This became very personal to me in a way that tied together all of my interests that I had originally touched on in that first blog post about climate change, the Dalai Lama and joy. If I’d been trying to find a way back into that post and what it meant to me­—and I think I was—I now had a way back in and it came in the form of finding this Dutch climate-diplomatic-photographer Alexander Verbeek online.

I found a recording of Alexander Verbeek’s Uppsala talk “Fact-Free Politics in Times of Climate Change,” hosted by Pax et Bellum at Uppsala University’s Department of Peace and Conflict Research. I watched it. Something about it challenged me and my thinking. I watched it again. I put it aside in my mind and went on with other things.

I got ready to publish my climate-change novel and started a new job in an engineering firm that has a real focus on “climate resilience” and solutions-forward thinking. As an aside, I decided to write a blog post in support of fundraising for a friend’s medical expenses. This is a relevant aside. The post about the friend’s medical expenses came to me as a very intense flash of “Hell, yes!” and without too much forethought, I wrote and shared it online. I did so because it felt right. I shared it with a lot of people.

Having done that, this friend, who happens to be both an Architect and a respected Feng Shui Master, popped up over and over again on my radar and on my Facebook newsfeed a little more often than usual over the course of the week following that blog post about his medical expenses.

I was on Facebook, looking at my newsfeed, which is heavily edited. I’ve powered down on how many notifications I get from everyone at once, because I prefer to be selective about my online visits with people. I prefer the approach of visiting one-on-one with people as if we were going to have tea together, rather than inviting them all into my living room at once, and attempting to sort through all of their opinions that come at me simultaneously.

I prefer to focus on one person at a time, online. It brings more alignment and more clarity of focus. It’s powerful.

And so, with this connection to my friend—RD Chin­—around my medical-expenses-post, I had that focus. I was on RD’s page seeing his recent post about the Dalai Lama. I was looking at a shared video clip and it jumped out at me because, I suppose, I’d been trying to tie these threads back together. I watched this little video, an excerpt of a new documentary about the Dalai Lama called “The Last Dalai Lama?” and I had that “hell, yes!” feeling again. It was, “hell, yes, I can tie the Dalai Lama, climate change AND Alex Verbeek’s talk all together!” I just didn’t know how.

I went through a lot of mulling and walking and meditating and listening. Relistening. Notetaking. And napping. Waking. Clarifying. You get it. And I came up with this: this piece you’re connecting with online here, and that I’m recording into my iPhone for lack of a more fluid way to express myself. Because I don’t think this is going to come together through writing, even though I’m going to write this up after speaking it.

This is a hot off-the-top-of-my-head, stream of consciousness flow of ideas of how it all fits together.

Here it is:

  1. We start as expanded beings.
  2. We bump up against each other in the world.
  3. We find our fears, or they find us.
  4. We contract and become uncomfortable and so we seek that expansion, or that remembering of expansion, again.
  5. We do this by reaching out for things that bring us joy.

Sometimes what brings us joy is traveling. Sometimes it’s taking pictures. And often, especially with social media, it’s sharing those pictures of traveling. I think we do this at a time when we are surrounded by uncertainty, and I think we do it more and more, in relation to the uncertainty around us.

Some of that uncertainty is political. Some of that uncertainty is climatic. Some of that uncertainty is personal, social.

These images help us to find the way. They help us focus.

I want to explain something to you that I understand through my work in subtle energy, or Reiki:

I perceive that we have the ability to open subtle energetic pathways through our focus. These pathways are opened through our experience of joy. And once opened, these pathways have the potential to lead to real and tangible changes in our environment.

This is not something that is talked about much in socio-politico-economic-climate-change circles, and yet it should be. It’s certainly not something I learned as a university student in Urban Geography or in Architecture.

I remember going to see journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn talk about their book A Path Appears (I took my husband as a wedding anniversary surprise) and I was very excited because I thought from the title that they got it, that they had this same understanding of opening energetic pathways through this focus on joy. I didn’t see that they had quite the same understanding that I did, and I wondered if they had bumped into it by accident. I wonder that about Alex Verbeek’s work. Has he bumped into this by accident, or is he aware of the power that his images hold?

I see this also in the work of another diplomat, Simona Miculescu who shares lush images online, not just of travel, but also of vignettes around sound and music. She is a United Nations diplomat and an art-lover and also a singer. She sang on a UN Ambassador’s CD, “Ambassadors Sing for Peace.” I haven’t seen her in quite a while although I follow her online. And what I see in her images is that crisp sense of joy and I know that she, too, opens pathways of energetic perception and creation in her work. It often comes through music. Did she bump up against this by accident?

Have all of these eco-politico-cultural creators found the pathway to solutions-thinking through their creative sharing, and are they able to spread their solutions-methodologies in a subtle way, by their savvy use of online resources? Have they bumped up against this solutions-opening approach by accident?

I’m going to go back to my Reiki perspective, which is perhaps my stronger point of knowing, compared to trying to explain the Dalai Lama’s perspective on this. His perspective is grand and speaks to many, whereas my Reiki perspective simply comes from my own experience of subtle energy work and through my own hands. I can speak with more authenticity about my own perspective than I can about the Dalai Lama’s. If you want to maintain your focus on the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan Buddhist perspective as he speaks to the world, I can direct you to the first blog post I wrote two years ago, “The Dalai Lama, Climate Change and Joy,” which includes a video reference to his actual words as they were presented at The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and where he spoke, with several others, about the human response to climate change.

These are my words; they reflect many teachers of today, and they may sound familiar for that reason. These are also my husband Tom’s understandings, reflected in conversations we have around the house, and that we had over wine at our local pub last night.

When we focus with joy, fear cannot exist.

I add:

when we focus with joy, what we’d previously articulated as a problem, gets reframed as worthy of or as tagged for potential solutions.

It’s almost like putting a Post-It note flag on the side of a memo or news article and telling the Universe,

“I have flagged this one for your solution. Please bring your focus here. Thanks!”

And if you’ve done it with joy, or you’ve got yourself into a place of joy even if the thing you were flagging was depressing, you’ve opened the pathway for focus. You’ve opened the pathway for the Universe to come in and solve that thing.

I’m not saying the solution is going to come right away, and I’m not saying the solution is going to come like a lightning bolt outside of you.

This little solution—or big solution—is going to come in the form of a whispered inspiration, and it’s up to you to listen, and it’s up to you to act. Because the solution is going to be delivered specifically to you, tailored to your understanding, and it may arrive when you least expect it.

The solution may come when you’re walking, it may come when you’re in the shower; it may come when you wake up from a deep sleep.

The solution may come in small nibbles, little nuggets one at a time and whose connections are only revealed to you in your understanding, years later. Pay attention.

The solution will be there, and it’s not something to dismiss or to write off or to ignore. It’s something to pay attention to, if it’s come from that clear place of joy. Because it’s come through this energetic pathway that YOU opened, by YOUR focusing. It has come by giving your larger self the respect of listening and in turn, you can honor it by responding.

We can all take that perspective of being honored to respond to the whispers of inspiration and intuition.

And, I think, that’s how we might address our worldly problems, whether they stem from disruptions around “alternative facts” or climate change or asking ourselves as a society if we will take in refugees from near and far. So often, the media’s focus on these problems generates more fear within us. I think we would do well to steer clear of fear-generating media, because it blocks our solutions-focus. Knowing the problems is one thing; diving into them without a solutions-focused approach is simply unproductive at best and is destructive at worst. We may not solve these problems all at once and we may not solve them with the speed we would like, and yet we can solve them, puzzle piece by puzzle piece, if we focus on this swift way of reaching for solutions.

How might we take this alignment-approach into climate solutions-seeking work? The Dalai Lama gave some clues at the talk he gave at MIT, two years ago:

  • The Dalai Lama says we ought to encourage the media to lead the change.

I add: we can encourage the media to be solutions-focused and we can contribute to its flow of ideas by sharing opinions. Solutions Journalism offers one of these approaches.

  • His Holiness encourages compassion, and seeing the billions of us in oneness – all of us in it together. 

I add: we might consider taking time to focus on one person at a time, especially online. Thrive Global offers hints about this.

  • His Holiness encourages group meetings, more often, and made public, to meet on the issues and solutions around climate change. 

I add: we can make online solutions-focused content easy to access, and easy to share, using popular platforms and those that extend into the education system such as Google Classroom.

It’s easy. It’s so easy. It just takes a diligence to opening those pathways, those subtle energy pathways. And I know, through my own personal experience, that we can do that swiftly through our focus on joy.

-Maia

www.maiakumarigilman.com

www.aseiarts.com

 

 

 

Why I travel

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Why I travel

 

Because I am human, and I inhabit a physical body, my experience of the sacred is automatically spatial. My experience of the spirit translates easily into the architectures of faith. I explore this. I travel.

Because I am human, and because I engage my physical senses at every moment, my understanding of the spiritual is, by nature, a physical one, tested against what I see, hear, breathe, taste, touch, love and feel. Should one or more of these senses be deprived in any moment, the others compensate in an extraordinary pulsation of experience.

Because I am human, and what I primarily know is the physical, my understanding of the spiritual is often relegated to a classification of physical experiences.

The body perceives the understanding of the spirit, thereby making my understanding of spirit a physical one.

Reverse this order.

Know the spirit as the vehicle, the vessel, in which the body is held, delicately, in its form.

What does this change in my understanding?

That the sacred transcends the physical, is not limited by the immediate perceptions of the body.

That because the sacred is all, and the body is contained within in, that the body alone is not sacred, but that everything is.

This knowing is illuminated through travel, and its expansion of the senses.

This is why I travel.

 

-Maia

www.maiakumarigilman.com

excerpt from the soon-to-be-released book:

Duct Tape for Kali: a book of travel poems by Maia Kumari Gilman

 

Call to action before Earth Day!

Social media post The Erenwine Agenda

By now – especially if you already follow me on social media – you’ll have heard I have a book coming out. The Erenwine Agenda is about an intern architectural designer who takes on the natural gas industry. I’m pleased to share these early reviews of The Erenwine Agenda:

on the earth-healing perspective, a review from
shaman Janet StraightArrow:

“The Erenwine Agenda is a modern work of fiction that addresses many of the issues that face our generations today. In the story of Amalia and Mark we move through many layers and perspectives of innocence, science, lifestyle, idealism, environmentalism, romance and realities in being conscious humans living now, and doing business with corporate interests. Fracking and natural gas are the major focus in how they affect us, as other concerns are addressed. Their story has a surprise ending and thought provoking situations and solutions. This book is a journey of awakening and finding positive ways of taking action to assist a world in environmental distress.”

on the multicultural and architectural perspectives, a review from
architect and AIA Middle East President Raya Ani:

“A timely and contemporary novel about love and care for the world—The Erenwine Agenda helps us understand how we might navigate from a place of non-communication to a place of resolution. The primary characters, who are both of mixed ethnicity but of different cultural backgrounds, live a clashing breakdown of the polarities within themselves and in the environment around them. The story skillfully takes the reader from one event to another until Superstorm Sandy shocks the characters into redefining a new position in the world. The story feels very real as it puts us head on in conversation with ourselves, with the corporate structures that govern our lives, and by extension, with our idealism. The Erenwine Agenda crosses disciplines, crosses cultures, and crosses opposing viewpoints to arrive at a more compassionate and empathetic place.”

This is more about the book, and you can pre-order the Kindle version here:

Pre-order The Erenwine Agenda: a novel

Amalia Erenwine—an environmental activist working in New York City as an architectural intern—takes on the natural gas industry in this new book by Maia Kumari Gilman. Amalia rails against the underwriting of her employer’s work by a natural gas company involved with fracking. She clashes with the gas company’s petroleum geologist, executive Mark Stone—and yet, a hurricane of personal and continental proportions triggers the two of them to open their minds to a new world view.

Please share in advance of Earth Day! The more the merrier, as they say. Your kindness thus far in the development and sharing of this project is, quite frankly, amazing. I am both humbled and heartened by your support.

Much love,

-Maia

www.maiakumarigilman.com