Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Groups Now Taking Grant Applications for National Funding

The United Soccer Foundation is one of the many organizations now taking grant applications. C. Coimbra photo
The current newsletter from The Grant Station, a webpage that lists available grants from foundations, corporations, governments, etc., list the following available grant to apply for. Grants range from proposals for program that support a just society, education, health, and safe playgrounds for children.


National Funding
Current Opportunities Throughout the U.S.

Support for Community Organizing for Social Change in the U.S. and Canada
Unitarian Universalist Association: Fund for a Just Society 
The Fund for a Just Society, a program of the Unitarian Universalist Association, provides grants to nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and Canada that address issues of social and economic justice. The Fund supports organizations that use community organizing to bring about systemic change leading to a more just society and to mobilize with those who have been disenfranchised and excluded from resources, power, and the right to self-determination. Priority is given to active, specific campaigns to create change in the economic, social, and political structures that affect their lives. Consideration is given to projects that are less likely to receive conventional funding because of the innovative or challenging nature of the work or the economic and social status of the constituency. The maximum grant amount is $15,000; however, most grants range between $6,000 and $8,000. Requests are reviewed two times per year; the next application deadline is September 15, 2017. Visit the Unitarian Universalist Association website to review the funding guidelines.

K-12 Parent-School Collaborative Projects Funded
Lowe's Toolbox for Education Grant Program
The Toolbox for Education Grant Program, offered by Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation, provides grants of up to $5,000 to public K-12 schools, as well as school parent-teacher groups associated with public schools, throughout the United States that develop projects to encourage parent involvement and build stronger community spirit. Preference is given to funding requests that have a permanent impact such as facility enhancement (both indoor and outdoor), landscaping, or cleanup projects. The Fall 2017 grant cycle will open on August 7. Visit the program’s website during the grant cycle to submit an online application.

Grants Address HIV/AIDS Issues in Local Communities
Kent Richard Hofmann Foundation
The Kent Richard Hofmann Foundation is dedicated to the fight against HIV and AIDS. Grant requests from throughout the United States are considered, with particular interest in smaller communities and rural areas. The Foundation supports community-based nonprofit organizations that focus on HIV/AIDS care and direct services, education, or research. Grants are provided to developing or established programs, with emphasis on those that provide direct benefit to clients or target audiences. Requests are reviewed two times per year. The upcoming deadline for letters of inquiry is September 1, 2017; invited grant applications will be due September 22, 2017. Visit the Foundation’s website to submit an online letter of inquiry.

Soccer Field-Building Initiatives Supported
United States Soccer Foundation: Safe Places to Play Grants
The United States Soccer Foundation is dedicated to enhancing, assisting, and growing the sport of soccer in the U.S., with a special emphasis on underserved communities. The Foundation's Safe Places to Play Grants are provided for field-building initiatives in four categories: Synthetic Turf, Lighting, Irrigation, and Sport Court. Eligible applicants include community organizations, schools, municipalities, and other groups that offer soccer opportunities to youth. Requests for Safe Places to Play Grants are reviewed three times per year. The upcoming deadline for letters of interest for the 2017 Fall Grant Cycle is September 29; invited applications must be submitted by October 6. Visit the Foundation's website to learn more about the application process.



Monday, June 26, 2017

Tech Applications for the Greater Good



Predictions for the potential of artificial intelligence wax poetic — solutions from climate change to curing disease — but the everyday applications make it seem far more mundane, like a glorified clock radio.

Thankfully, the future may be closer than we think. And the miraculous feats are not happening in Silicon Valley X-Labs — in a plot twist, nonprofits are leading the charge in creating human-centered applications of the hottest AI technologies. From the simplest automated communications to contextual learnings based on analysis of deep data, these technologies have the potential to rapidly scale and improve the lives of our most underserved communities.

Chatbots
Take chatbots for example, a new spin on mobile messaging that has historically been human-powered. Organizations like mRelief have for years used simple mobile messaging to meet users where they’re at. Recently, tech nonprofits are taking a new approach. Raheem.ai, a Facebook Messenger bot for reporting and rating experiences with police officers, engages with users to walk them through reporting police incidents and provide follow-on support. The interactions are simple, but powerful.

Machine learning
Crisis Text Line still implements a human-to-human volunteer model, but the tech nonprofit has the largest open source database of youth crisis behavior in the country, and has been able to use AI to dramatically shorten response time for high-risk texters from 120 seconds to 39. Crisis Text Line leveraged machine learning to identify the term “ibuprofen” as 16 times more likely to predict the need for emergency aid than the word “suicide.” Now using AI, messages containing the word “ibuprofen” are prioritized in the queue.

Machine learning even allows you to select the energy source that powers your home appliances. WattTime creates software that enables smart hardware devices to prioritize clean energy with a simple flip of a switch. Their product relies on machine learning to detect when to tell smart devices like thermostats to pull from the power grid, based on surges in clean energy. This means your A/C may turn on five minutes earlier or later than it typically would, because the algorithms instruct your utilities to capitalize upon instances of excess clean energy from sources like windmills, thus minimizing the use of dirty power.

Natural-language processing
Quill, a free online tool that helps students measurably improve grammar and writing, discovered that natural-language processing was essential to remedy students’ struggles with sentence fragmentation. Using open source tools and online training programs, Quill’s technical team built its own fragment detection algorithm powered by a combination of machine learning and natural-language processing. Quill’s methodology is exemplary for resource-constrained tech nonprofits. It leveraged Wikipedia to amass a dataset of 100,000 high-quality sentences, integrated the natural-language processing tool Spacy.io to break the sentences down, and incorporated Tensorflow for data classification.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

We Are Connected to Everything


John Duns Scotus (c. 1266-1308) was a Franciscan philosopher and theologian who in many ways paralleled Bonaventure’s ideas. Duns Scotus helped develop the doctrine of the univocity of being. Previous philosophers said God was a Being, which is what most people still think today. Both the Dominican Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and Duns Scotus said Deus est ens, God is being itself. The Dominicans said everything other than God participated in being only by analogy and by attempts to make connections, but it was not really the same being as God’s being. Yet Duns Scotus believed we can speak “with one voice” (univocity) of the being of waters, plants, animals, humans, angels, and God. We all participate in the same being. God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4), and thus reality is one, as well (Ephesians 4:3-5).

This gives us a foundation for understanding the sacredness of everything and our connection with everything. We are already connected to everything—inherently, objectively, metaphysically, ontologically, and theologically. We don’t create the connection by going to church or reading the Bible, although we hopefully enliven the connection. In Francis’ worldview, we begin with “original blessing,” as Matthew Fox rightly said. Our DNA is already divine; that is why we naturally seek to know and love God. There has to be a little bit of something inside you for you to be attracted to it; like knows like. You are what you are looking for!

A heart transformed by this realization of oneness knows that only love “in here” can spot and enjoy love “over there.” Thus true spiritual teachers see fear, constriction, and resentment as blindness that must be overcome. These emotions impede growth. Thus all mystics are positive people—or they are not mystics. Their spiritual warfare is precisely the work of recognizing and then handing over all of their inner negativity and fear to God. The great paradox here is that such a victory is a gift from God, and yet somehow you must want it very much (Philippians 2:12b-13). God does not come unless invited.

The central practice in Franciscan mysticism, therefore, is that we must remain in love, which is why it is a commandment (John 15:4-5), in fact, the great commandment of Jesus. Only when we are eager to love can we see love and goodness in the world around us. We must ourselves remain in peace, and then we will see and find peace over there. Remain in beauty, and we will honor beauty everywhere. This concept of remaining or abiding (John 15:4-5) moves religion out of esoteric realms of doctrinal outer space where it has for too long been lost. There is no secret moral behavior required for knowing or pleasing God, or what some call “salvation,” beyond becoming a loving person in mind, heart, body, and soul. Then each of us will see all that we need to see!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Photojournalists "Help a Woman -- Help the Planet"

Anni Griffiths photo from Ripple Effect Images

"Annie Griffiths has captured indelible images of life and landscapes in some 150 countries," writes a recent feature in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Those experiences led Griffiths to launch Ripple Effect Images, with the mission "...to harness the power of visual storytelling to help scale solutions for women and girls globally. We identify best practice aid programs and document their innovative solutions. Using our films and images, aid organizations have raised millions of dollars to expand their programs. Ripple’s dynamic photo library is a unique collection of world-class images and video footage that is shared and repurposed in hundreds of ways. The extraordinary Ripple Effect team includes Pulitzer Prize, World Press, Emmy Award, and National Humanities Medal winners. Ripple is dedicated to covering under-reported issues that impact women and girls. Chief among those issues are our Seven Pillars: Water, Food, Health, Education, Energy, Economic Empowerment and Climate Change," states the nonprofit's website

From the Chronicle of Philanthropy,  "Ripple Effect photos and videos have been put to use by global development groups like BRAC to raise $10 million over the five years for sustainable programs that enhance women’s lives."




Friday, June 23, 2017

7 Elements of Leadership


Lolly Daskal, founder of Lead from Within, a global leadership, executive coaching, and consulting firm based in New York City, wrote the following 7 Top Habits of Great Leaders:

  1. The habit of confidence. Confidence is the cornerstone of great leadership. You can learn high-level skills in problem solving, decision making, communication, coaching, mentoring and accountability — but they won’t take you very far if you don’t believe in yourself. Great leaders are called to be decisive, resourceful, competent and unwavering, and self-confidence is the basis for each of those attributes. Confidence is the quality that allows leaders to take action. They may not always be right, but they don’t fear being wrong.
  2. The habit of trusting intuition. Top leaders are able to make tough decisions because they have learned to trust their instincts. One of the keys to great leadership is the ability to be creative, think on the fly and make important judgments decisively and correctly, and intuition fuels those processes. Intuitive leaders don’t ignore data, but they don’t overthink or get stuck on details. They know their intuitive hunches aren’t wild guesses but are grounded in their ability to quickly assess a situation, filtered through their education and experience. Facts represent the science of decision making, and intuition is the art.
  3. The habit of candor. Great leadership is based on honesty and transparency. It requires speaking up about wrongs and making them right — and, on a personal level, being up front about your own weaknesses and mistakes. The habit of candor will never be the easiest path, but it allows for difficult conversations and deep dives into tough issues. Above all, honesty and candor show care and respect for those around you, which is why it’s the first step in establishing a reputation for strength and integrity. Candor is the cornerstone of character.
  4. The habit of courage. Great leaders are willing to make courageous decisions when others shy away. That kind of courage means having the ability to see your fears and the strength to not only face them but move beyond them. When a leader stands up for what they believe in, the effect is multiplied as others are prompted to act in kind. In leadership, courage is at the heart of both action and inspiration.
  5. The habit of integrity. A leader with integrity holds to the highest moral and ethical code in everything they do. Integrity comes about when you’re motivated by deeply held values, and it’s always characterized by reliability and excellence. Part of integrity — literally — is the word grit, which denotes firmness of mind and unyielding character. It takes grit to be true to yourself and the things you believe. In the end, though, it’s worth the effort, because your integrity is central to the legacy you leave behind. Great leaders make integrity a habit because they understand its value.
  6. The habit of trust. Without trust, you can never really have collaboration — only coordination or, at best, cooperation. It is trust that transforms and changes a group of people into a team whose members work together and succeed together. It’s a process best carried out with a great leader, one who understands and demonstrates trust and makes it a habit, one who delivers on promises and is consistent in everything they do. Trust is the most essential ingredient in creating and defining the meaningful relationships that lie at the core of leadership.
  7. The habit of loyalty. Great leaders have a profound sense of loyalty and service to others; they hold their team’s best interests closer than their own. A leader who is seen as loyal, committed, caring and protective has earned credibility and respect. Being loyal to your people is among the greatest virtues a leader can have.


Great leadership — the kind that inspires those around you to change the world — all begins with confidence. Confidence leads to purpose, which guides you toward the right actions. These actions form habits, which in turn determine your character, and your character fixes your destiny as a great leader. No matter where you are on the journey of your leadership, create good habits and you’ll be moving in the right direction.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

YES! A "most dangerous prayer"


by Frederic Brussat.

I have been rereading a book called "Praying Dangerously: Radical Reliance by God" by Regina Sara Ryan. She begins her book with a prayer, and the prayer ends with these words:

Let us say Yes, again and again and again.
and Yes some more.
Let us pray dangerously,
the most dangerous prayer is Yes.

This really resonates with me. I love the word, "yes." My friend and colleague, Naomi King, once told me that since she'd heard the opening of the Gospel of John, "In the beginning was the Word," she has liked to think about what that word might have been. She likes to ask people what they might think that Word was. And I told her, without hesitation, when she asked me, that I think that original Word was, "yes."

There's a poem by the Sufi poet Hafiz that confirms my opinion:

I rarely let the word 'No' escape
From my mouth
"Because it is so plain to my soul
That God has shouted, 'Yes! Yes! Yes!'
To every luminous movement in Existence.

It is so easy, and so common, to respond to things with a strong "no." No, I don't know what that would lead to. No, we've never done it like that before. No, there just isn't enough (time, money, energy, what have you). No.

Often this is just our first reaction. Given time to think on things we make our way to seeing how something to which we'd first said "no" might be possible after all. We warm to the idea. But it can take a while.

Yet what if we could find our way to "yes" more quickly? What if our first instinct was to say "yes," and only then take our time to see what we'd just gotten ourselves into? Could our prayer become, "yes"? Could our lives become, "yes"?

Long ago I came across words from Dag Hammarskjöld that I would love to have as my epitaph:

For all that has been —
Thanks.
For all that will be —
Yes.

The most dangerous prayer is "yes."

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Today is World Peace Day





On this day of the most light, peace seekers from around the world will join in prayer and meditation during the 22nd Annual World Peace and Prayer Day.

From the website:

World Peace And Prayer Day/Honoring Sacred Sites Day is an international and intergenerational celebration for people of all faiths, nations, races, ages and genders who share concern for the welfare of humanity and the Earth to share in One Prayer.

During World Peace and Prayer Day the honoring ceremonies, invocations and prayers at the main chosen site are observed in collaboration with local indigenous representatives. Wisdom keepers and activists share spiritual insight and discuss important environmental concerns and solutions on both a local and global level.

In addition to a main gathering at a sacred site chosen each year, we ask others to join us at their own sacred sites as well as in their churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and other places of prayer.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Summer Solstice -- A Celebration of Light




Click here for the exact time for Summer Solstice where you live.


On June 21, 2017, many time zones in the Northern Hemisphere welcome the first day of the summer, as the Sun reaches its northernmost position in the sky.

A significant turning point during the year - the days start getting shorter and the nights longer - the June Solstice is often associated with change, nature and new beginnings.

People around the world celebrate the day, which is also known as the Summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the Winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, with feasts, bonfires, picnics, and traditional songs and dances.

11 interesting facts about the June Solstice

An Ancient Celebration
Celebrations surrounding the June Solstice have a time-honored history. In ancient times, the date of the June Solstice was used to organize calendars and as a marker to figure out when to plant and harvest crops. Traditionally, this time of year was also popular for weddings.
Stonehenge: An Ancient Calendar Organizing System?

Some historians point to the Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England as evidence of the fact that ancient humans used the June Solstice as a way to organize their calendars. Some believe that Stonehenge's unique stone circle was erected around 2500 BCE in order to establish the date of the Summer Solstice. Viewed from its center, the Sun rises at a particular point on the horizon on day of the June Solstice. Some theories suggest that the builders of Stonehenge may have used the solstice as a starting-point to count the days of the year.

Celebrating Femininity in China
In ancient China, the summer solstice was observed by a ceremony to celebrate the Earth, femininity, and the “yin” forces. It complemented the Winter Solstice that celebrated the heavens, masculinity and “yang” forces. According to Chinese tradition, the shortest shadow is found on the day of the Summer Solstice.

Midsummer Feasts
In ancient Gaul, which encompasses modern-day France and some parts of its neighboring countries, the Midsummer celebration was called Feast of Epona. The celebration was named after a mare goddess who personified fertility and protected horses. In ancient Germanic, Slav and Celtic tribes, pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires. After Christianity spread in Europe and other parts of the world, many pagan customs were incorporated into the Christian religion. In parts of Scandinavia, the Midsummer celebration continued but was observed around the time of St John’s Day, on June 24, to honor St John the Baptist instead of the pagan gods.

Honoring the Sun
In North America, some Native American tribes held ritual dances to honor the Sun. The Sioux were known to hold one of the most spectacular rituals. Preparations for the event included cutting and raising a tree that would be considered a visible connection between the heavens and Earth, and setting up teepees in a circle to represent the cosmos. Participants abstained from food and drink during the dance itself. Their bodies were decorated in the symbolic colors of red (sunset), blue (sky), yellow (lightning), white (light), and black (night).

Modern day celebrations
In northern European countries like Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland, Midsummer is a festive celebration. When the summer days are at their longest, and in the north it is the time of the Midnight Sun, festivals generally celebrate the summer and the fertility of the Earth. In Sweden and many parts of Finland people dance around Maypoles. Bonfires are lit and homes are decorated with flower garlands, greenery, and tree branches.

New Age and Neopagan customs
There are many solstice observances held by New Age and Neopagan groups throughout the world. Thousands of people, including modern-day druids and pagans, usually gather at Stonehenge for this occasion.

In some parts of the United States, events that focus on the theme of the Summer Solstice are held. These events include: local festivals featuring art or music; environmental awareness activities that focus on using natural sunlight as a source of energy; and family gatherings.

--From Time & Date







Thursday, June 15, 2017

Knowing Kindness



A poetic thought for our times.

Kindness

Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Evict the Negative Monkey from Your Mind




The following is an edited and excerpted (for space) from "The Art of Redirecting Negative Thoughts."

Buddha described the human mind as being filled with monkeys, swinging from branch to branch, screeching and chattering nonstop. That’s why the mind is often referred to as your “monkey mind.” ... This is especially true when one monkey, fear, is particularly loud with warnings of potential threats, both real and imagined. The more you try to ignore it, the louder it seems to become.

Fear serves a specific purpose—to protect. This is such a primal instinct that it can easily dominate your thoughts and, when left unchecked, leads to negative thought loops that play over and over like an old record player that gets caught on repeat.

Those who garden know that you must keep on top of pulling weeds; otherwise, they proliferate quickly and can crowd out the vegetation you wish to grow. In this case, you want positive thoughts to be like weeds and crowd out the negative thoughts. To get started, ask yourself, “What are some things I personally love doing? Who makes me feel happy when I’m around them?” Then, make it a point to make plans that incorporate that positivity into your life.

Here are some other actions you can take that inspire positive habits:

  1. Gratitude journaling: The process of writing down what you are grateful for every day can have a positive impact on your life and your outlook on the future. Spend time each evening jotting down 3-5 things for which you are grateful. It can be as simple as, “I am grateful for my heart that beats.”
  2. Seek stillness: Make an effort to seek out stillness in whatever form appeals to you. The more you access stillness, the more you can tap into your inner peace, truth, and strength. It’s there, just waiting for you to notice. Try seeking stillness through meditation, hiking in nature, listening to calming music, and practicing breathing exercises.
  3. Surround yourself with positive vibes: Seek out situations and people that are positive by reading inspirational books, attending lectures by people you admire, and listening to positive music. (Music artist Michael Franti always brings on the good vibes.) 
  4. Perform Seva: The word “Seva” in Sanskrit means “selfless service.” This type of service uplifts the collective through togetherness and compassion. Focus on how you can be of service by helping people, animals, or the earth. Try picking up trash, volunteering at organizations that interest you, or something as simple as buying coffee for someone else.
  5. Use technology for your benefit: If you are a tech person, there are applications available that support increasing positivity, like Happify. Try it out and see the difference it can make in your life.  


Monday, June 12, 2017

"The Road to Character"



Today's post was inspired by another blog that discusses the development of character as written in David Brook's recent book, "The Road to Character."  It caught my attention because I'm reading the book at the moment.

From the Brook's website:  The road to character is for every one of us who is trying to become a better version of ourselves. It is about shifting the cultural conversation to sharing stories of moral adventure and learning from each other's examples.

Because everyone's road is going to be different, but that doesn't mean we can't take some steps together.

In a time when ME and I appear to dominate our contemporary culture, this book suggests that perhaps it is time to walk outside of such personal reference because the day will come when our work resume means little and what is said in our eulogy is what will define our true character -- or not.

The referenced website continues the discussion of character by people from all walks of life who have begun the walking the road toward character. One persons writes:  For me being a good person incorporates the following: 1) to be present with empathy for every moment that my personal faculties allow with the people and situations I encounter, 2) to keep in mind not to do to other people what I would not want done to myself, 3) to hold a little doubt in reserve and apply it when I feel confidence turn toward arrogance.  I think being a good person starts with saying please and thank you, and the other common courtesies—the idea that kindness and respect to others returns kindness and respect.

Friday, June 9, 2017

The World Joins Hands for the Sea

California Coastal Commission photo
As far as the oceans are concerned, there are no borders.  And yesterday, World Oceans Day, hundreds of thousands of people from around the world agreed with the sea. From Ireland, El Salvador, Spain, South Africa, Italy, Canada, Jamaica, Peru, Portugal, Mexico, India, Taiwan, France, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Honduras, Thailand, Croatia, Columbia, Malta, Indonesia, Australia, Philippines, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Belize, Argentina, Serbia, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Mauritius, Germany, Saint Lucia, Oman, Norway, Maldives, Slovenia, Montserrat, Indonesia, Brazil, Mozambique, Croatia, Trinidad, Russia, Ghana, Denmark, Guam, South Korea, Argentina, the United States, and the list goes on, offered ocean awareness programs, ocean clean up days, film festivals and more.

The purpose, according to World Oceans Day, included:


  • Change perspective – encourage individuals to think about what the ocean means to them and what it has to offer all of us with hopes of conserving it for present and the future generations.
  • Learn – discover the wealth of diverse and beautiful ocean creatures and habitats, how our daily actions affect them, and how we are all interconnected.
  • Change our ways – we are all linked to, and through, the ocean! By taking care of your backyard and helping in your community, you are acting as a caretaker of our ocean. Making small modifications to your everyday habits will make a difference, and involving your family, friends, and community will benefit our blue planet even more!
  • Celebrate – whether you live inland or on the coast, we are all connected to the ocean. Take the time to think about how the ocean affects you, and how you affect the ocean, and then organize or participate in activities that celebrate our ocean.





Thursday, June 8, 2017

4 Reasons Why to Plant a Garden

Summertime! Garden time! And 4 excellent reasons why gardening is good for you. Edited from a Chopra Center post:

Gardening is a great practice for the mind, body, and spirit. Whether you have a green thumb or are new to the game, you can find multiple benefits in gardening this spring and summer.

Your Reap What You Sow
By bringing intention and reflection to the process, gardening can provide a window into your own life. When you garden, it’s easy to see The Law of Giving and Receiving at work and in such a timely way. As you plan, plant, nurture, and harvest your garden, take advantage of these four benefits:


  1. Exercise: Dig the Workout  Gardening is considered a moderate- to high-intensity workout, and can burn up to 330 calories during one hour. This includes both gardening and yard work, so if you don’t like lifting weights in a gym, you can use daily gardening as part of your healthy lifestyle strategy. It’s recommended that lifting—which is often involved with gardening—be a part of physical activity as you age to keep optimal bone health
  2. Clean Eating: Farm to Table Made Simple  Eating local, organic produce can be good for your health, and there’s nothing more local than your own backyard. Not only do you get the benefits of the process of gardening, there is the added bonus of knowing where your food came from and what you used to help it grow. Your water, your fertilizer, and your plant food are all your choice. And if you have kids, you may find that when they participate in growing vegetables, they are more likely to try new ones. Have fun with it and choose the most unique varieties possible, like blue potatoes and watermelon radishes.
  3. Reduced Stress: Let Nature Take It Away   According to a research study conducted by Rutgers University, flowers are a natural mood moderator and have an almost immediate positive impact on happiness as well as a long-term effect on your overall mood. Spending time among the blossoms also allows you to feel a connection to the land and better relate to the earth. Gardening has also been proven to promote relief from acute stress. This, in turn, can inspire you to experience feelings of gratitude, awe, and abundance.
  4. Relationship-Building: Take Lessons from Your Garden   Gardens can also help you practice relationship skills. According to research from the Medical University of Vienna, a garden provides a unique opportunity to meet the gardeners’ needs and vice versa. The garden and gardener evolve together, which is great practice for any relationship—understanding and respecting that both parties need one another to grow and flourish.


Not everyone has their own yard, but the great news is gardens can happen on your balcony, on your roof, or in a shared gardening space in your community. In the words of poet May Sarton, “Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.”

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Trail Camera Catches Diversity of Wildlife in New Mexico



The following samples of a photos from a trail camera photos from Gila Riparian Preserve are a joy to see. We posted the better photos from the original post from The Nature Conservancy project in New Mexico:

Dr. Keith Geluso, a biology professor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, had a hypothesis: the Gila River and its floodplain—with its natural flow regime—likely support a vast number of mammals. But there wasn’t much research. That’s why he set up a camera at our Gila Riparian Preserve near Silver City. Here is a sampling of what he discovered.

You can protect the Gila River and the many benefits it provides to nature and people. >>


Gila Trail Cam Black Bear 940x640
New Mexico’s state animal, American black bear, made an early appearance.


  • Gila Trail Cam Cougar 940x640

No doubt this is a cougar passing by. The tail makes up a third of this large cat’s body length!


Gila Trail Cam Coati 940x640
Speaking of tails, check out this white-nosed coati, a member of the raccoon family.


  • Gila Trail Cam Jackrabbit 940x640

Desert cottontails are abundant in the Southwest. This arid-adapted rabbit's large ears help dissipate heat and keep individuals from overheating.


Gila Trail Cam Javelina 940x640
Collared peccary, also known as javelina, often cool off in wooded areas during the hottest part of the day. It’s also a good place to forage for plants.


  • Gila Trail Cam Hawk 940x640

The Gila River is famous for birding opportunities, but it’s not just neotropical migrators you can see. Raptors like this Cooper's hawk also thrive here.


Gila Trail Cam Fox 940x640
This one was spotted in daytime, but common gray foxes are mostly nocturnal. They head out shortly after sunset to prey on small mammals like cottontail rabbits and ground-dwelling birds.


  • Gila Trail Cam Skunk 940x640

As you can imagine, nighttime brings more animals to the Gila Riparian Preserve trail. Here’s a white-backed hog-nosed skunk looking for a bite to eat. Both striped and western spotted skunk were also observed at the preserve.


Gila Trail Cam Bobcat 940x640
And this bobcat showed up in a few photos, peering straight into the camera's lens. Unlike cougars, bobcat tails are extremely short. In fact, that’s how these black-tufted creatures got their name.

The above photos helped support Dr. Geluso’s hypothesis. Rivers with natural flows support a great diversity of mammals. Based on the Gila River Flow Needs Assessment’s sobering results,


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Compassion Takes Over Recent Portland Tragedy




The unfortunate killing of two men who stood for two young girls under a racial and verbal attack in Portland, OR,  is not the news the Daily Prism covers.

However, the good in a majority of our population. In all compassion, a crowd fund account has been set up for the two girls involved.  It reads:

On Friday night, Portland witnessed a horrific attack that left two men dead and another victim wounded. These men died defending two girls who could have been victims of a hate crime.

The girls, 16 and 17-years-old, are suffering immense trauma in the aftermath of this tragedy. Although they survived, their lives will never be the same as they were being the targets of hate. In order to help them heal from this traumatic event we are raising funds to help girls to move on and feel safe in the future. 

The funds will go toward basic necessities like meals and transportation, as they feel unsafe to ride public transportation after their experience. Most importantly, funds will go toward mental health services to ensure their mental and emotional welfare. 

This city is in pain, and so are all of the victims of this tragedy. Our hearts go out to the heroes who gave their lives to save two strangers who could have lost theirs.

The link above will take you to the crowd funding site.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Rudyard Kipling's "If"



Poetry written by the masters of language rings true through the centuries. Enjoy these words written by Rudyard Kipling.


If


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; 
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise; 

If you can dream- -and not make dreams your master; 
If you can think- -and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools; 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on! '

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings- -nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And- -which is more- -you'll be a Man, my son! 
Rudyard Kipling

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Easy Way to Bring Awe into Your Life




The Greater Good awe quiz results show a clear link between awe and spirituality—that is, how people answered the question, “How spiritual are you?” The more spiritual you say you are, the more awe you tend to feel.

Spirituality is often described as a feeling of connectedness to something greater than ourselves, and typically involves a search for meaning and personal growth. Extremely spiritual people scored an average of 67 out of 75, whereas people who see themselves as not at all spiritual scored 59 on average. That’s a 13 percent difference in awe scores.

An Easy Moment of Awe


  • TIME REQUIRED

5-15 minutes per day for two weeks. Eventually you could incorporate this practice into your daily routine.


  • HOW TO DO IT

Be mindful of the natural elements and objects around you on a daily basis (e.g., trees, clouds, leaves, the moon, moving water, animals, etc.), and notice how these make you feel and what emotions they evoke. Take a moment to allow yourself to truly experience the nature around you.

When you encounter a natural object, element, or scene that evokes a strong emotion in you, that moves you in some way, take a photo of it. If possible, upload the photo to your computer, or even to a blog if you have one. Along with the photo, jot down a brief description of what prompted you to take it and how this nature scene made you feel, in a few words or a few sentences.

You can take as many photos as you like, but try to take at least 10 photos over the course of two weeks. Be mindful of how the nature you encounter makes you feel on a daily basis, but space the photos out on different days.

Remember: What is key is your experience with what you are photographing—how nature makes you feel. Don’t worry too much about the quality of the photos or how creative they are.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

"Thank You," The Grammar of Gratitude




Excerpted  from an essay by  Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat:

The spiritual practice of gratitude has been called a state of mind and a way of life. But we prefer to think of it as a grammar — an underlying structure that helps us construct and make sense out of our lives.

... To learn the grammar of gratitude, practice saying "thank you" for happy and challenging experiences, for people, animals, things, art, memories, dreams... Utter blessings, and express your appreciation to everything and everyone you encounter. By blessing, we are blessed.

The continuum of words related to gratitude go from greed and jealousy; through taking things for granted and feeling entitled; to appreciation, acceptance, and satisfaction. The practice of gratitude would be an appropriate prescription whichever one of the above describes your attitudes.

The rules of the grammar of gratitude are not as simple as they seem at first glance, however. For example, often instead of rejoicing in what we have, we greedily want something more, better, or different. We can't be grateful because we are making comparisons and coveting other possibilities.

When this happens on a personal level, when it's our ego that is dissatisfied, then we are ungrateful. But when we want something more, better, or different for the glory of God or for the benefit of the community, this greed may be a manifestation of our devotion, our love, or our yearning for justice. And then we are grateful for these commitments.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How A "Hedonistic" Playboy Turned Game-Changing Philanthropist





Some 663 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water or must walk hours daily to secure any water at all. But there’s a glass-half-full way to look at that disturbing number: As Scott Harrison, founder and CEO of Charity: Water, notes, a decade ago the figure was 1 billion.

That progress fuels optimism for the head of a nonprofit that has gained global renown, and built a huge donor base, by helping identify and implement reliable solutions for people in developing countries to reach clean, fresh water that might lie just below the surface of remote, seemingly arid villages.

Few charity leaders have come to their work by as unconventional a route as Mr. Harrison, who spent his 20s as a successful nightclub promoter and hard-partying hedonist — "I had  become the worst person I knew," he says — before a "radical cathartic moment" in South America a little more than a decade ago rekindled his youthful faith and gave him a new calling.

In this interview with the Business of Giving, Mr. Harrison recounts that journey and how it put him on the front lines of a global crisis with far-reaching implications in health (lack of clean water and sanitation contributes to more than half of all disease in the developing world) and finance (United Nations data shows that every dollar invested in water and sanitation yields a four- to eightfold return for local economies).

He also describes how Charity: Water has built a robust fundraising operation built on transparency, results, and using new technologies like satellite mapping and virtual reality to demonstrate effectiveness and create experiences that draw donors deeply into the nonprofit’s work.

Listen to the full interview on the player below and/or scroll down to read a transcript provided by the Business of Giving.

Click this link to listen to the podcast:  https://soundcloud.com/business-of-giving/scott-harrison-the-founder-and

Click this link to read the transcript from the podcast:  https://www.philanthropy.com/resources/audio/podcast-charity-water-change/6322/?cid=pt&utm_source=pt&utm_medium=en&elqTrackId=b88231ec4ee84e21bdab08b94bfface8&elq=fc98ca29b5964f4eaa91d166b191215c&elqaid=14090&elqat=1&elqCampaignId=5899

Friday, May 26, 2017

13 Indigenous Grandmothers Work for Wisdom & Healing


13 Indigenous Grandmothers. Courtesy photo


We are thirteen indigenous grandmothers who came together for the first time from October 11 through October 17, 2004, in Phoenicia, New York. We gathered from the four directions in the land of the people of the Iroquois Confederacy. We come here from the Amazon rainforest, the Alaskan Tundra of North America, the great forest of the American northwest, the vast plains of North America, the highlands of central America, the Black Hills of South Dakota, the mountains of Oaxaca, the desert of the American southwest, the mountains of Tibet and Nepal and from the rainforest of Central Africa.

Affirming our relations with traditional medicine peoples and communities throughout the world, we have been brought together by a common vision to form a new global alliance.

We are the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers. We have united as one. Ours is an alliance of prayer, education and healing for our Mother Earth, all Her inhabitants, all the children and for the next seven generations to come.

We are deeply concerned with the unprecedented destruction of our Mother Earth, the contamination of our air, waters and soil, the atrocities of war, the global scourge of poverty, the threat of nuclear weapons and waste, the prevailing culture of materialism, the epidemics which threaten the health of the Earth’s peoples, the exploitation of indigenous medicines, and with the destruction of indigenous ways of life.

We, the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, believe that our ancestral ways of prayer, peacemaking and healing are vitally needed today. We come together to nurture, educate and train our children. We come together to uphold the practice of our ceremonies and affirm the right to use our plant medicines free of legal restriction. We come together to protect the lands where our peoples live and upon which our cultures depend, to safeguard the collective heritage of traditional medicines, and to defend the earth Herself. We believe that the teachings of our ancestors will light our way through an uncertain future.

We join with all those who honor the Creator, and to all who work and pray for our children, for world peace, and for the healing of our Mother Earth.



Thursday, May 25, 2017

Finding the Positive When Feelings are Hurt



From a post by author Kari Kampakis:

“Everyone in your life serves a purpose. Everyone has something to teach you.

And while people who are kind and friendly help teach you who you do want to be, those who are not kind and friendly teach you who you don’t want to be.

So when you encounter someone who hurts your feelings, lean into that feeling. Ask yourself what they did to make you feel that way. Was it the words they chose? Their tone? The way they picked favorites and then ignored everyone else?

Whatever they did, make a pledge. Promise yourself that you’ll never treat anyone the way they treated you. This is how you become a kinder and more compassionate person. This is how you learn from their mistakes.

And when you meet someone you really like, lean into that feeling, too. Ask yourself what they did to make you feel so good. Then make a pledge to yourself to be more like them. This is also how you become a kinder and more compassionate person.

Regardless of how anyone treats you, you stand to benefit. While some people teach you who you do want to be, others teach you who you don’t want to be. And it’s the people who teach you who you don’t want to be that provide some of the most lasting and memorable lessons on social graces, human dignity, and the importance of acting with integrity.”

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Begin With Gratitude



The Daily Prism has slightly edited (for space purposes) the following thoughts on gratitude, love and compassion from the Center for Action and Contemplation.

In a most succinct and perfect summary, (the apostle) Paul says that you should “Pray with gratitude, and the peace of God which is beyond all knowledge...” (Philippians 4:6-7). 


  • First, you must begin with the positive, with gratitude (which might take your whole prayer time). 
  • Second, you need to pray as long it takes you to find “peace,” to get to a place beyond agitation (whether five minutes or five hours or five days). 
  • Third, note that he says this is a place beyond “knowledge,” beyond processing information or ideas. 
  • Fourth, you must learn how to stand guard, which is what many call “creating the inner witness” or the witnessing presence that calmly watches your flow of thoughts (mind) and feelings (heart). 

Finally, you must know what the goal is: your egoic thoughts can actually be replaced with living inside the very mind of Christ (en Christo). This is not self-generated knowing, but knowing by participation—consciousness itself (con-scire, to know with).

Paul then goes on to suggest that we fill our minds “with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good, everything that we love and honor, everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8). Norman Vincent Peale called this “the power of positive thinking.” I call it “replacement therapy.” If we don’t choose love and compassion, the human mind naturally goes in the other direction, and we risk joining a vast majority of people who live their later years trapped in a sense of victimhood, entitlement, and bitterness.

We are not free until we are free from our own compulsiveness, our own resentments, our own complaining, and our own obsessive patterns of thinking. We have to catch these patterns early in their development and nip them in the bud. And where’s the bud? It’s in the mind...Any later behaviors are just a response to the way our minds work. We can’t walk around all day writing negative, hateful mental commentaries about other people, or we will become hate itself.