Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Protecting our Egosystem

I heard a speaker at the conference I'm attending (Society for New Communications Research in San Francisco, talking about protecting our "egosystem." By the time I figured out I had misheard him, that he really said "ecosystem," my mind had already taken off on the idea of egosystems and how we operate within them.

Is there a better word for the complex environment of people and personalities we live in? My egosystem is made up of everyone - including me - in my network. In the most liberal interpretation, that includes the entire world. On a more immediate level, it's all the people in my personal network, on my web. And the balance in my egosystem is just as delicate and important to maintain as the ecosystem of the physical world.

With the exception of a few enlightened souls, we all go through the world with our egos raw and exposed. Even for those of us who work hard to recognize and minimize the destructive power of letting our ego always be in control, it's still there getting bruised and knocked about on a daily basis. Too much knocking and bruising and we start to get defensive, protective, retreating into behavior designed to protect from pain.

That makes sense...except the tools we use and the degree to which we employ them are usually way off base. If something frightens us, for example, instead of investigating the source of our fear, we run and hide behind ignorance (the deliberate kind) or, worse yet, apply liberal doses of anger. When we feel vulnerable, we attack, not to mitigate the threat but to anhilate it. We we feel angry, we gunny sack our feelings and whip out the passive-aggressive survival kit, mucking up the whole mess even further. The list is endless. And since it affects everyone on our web, in our egosystem, we end up with human environmental issues... damaged relationships, poor interpersonal encounters, loneliness, heartache.

So how do we protect our fragile egosystem? Start by recognizing it exists. Think about all the people in your world - your very complex, busy, populated world of family, friends, coworkers, strangers. How you treat them matters. How you react to them matters. And though you don't have any control over their actions, your own will certainly have an impact. Are your actions going to bring about the most desired responses? What if they don't? Do you minimize the damage or do you increase the fallout by reacting badly? Do you seek to engage healthily with your human environment, mitigating and controlling pestlike emotions and behaviors, or do you apply the emotional equivalent of DDT?  Just as in our physical environment, anytime you attempt to completely wipe out a component, even  those that annoy you, you create imbalances that skew the web. You don't want to let anger run amok in your life; you don't want to try to eliminate it altogether, either. It's a valid human emotion that, when recognized and used wisely, is valuable.

Thinking on a broader scale, how do our attempts to control group social behavior affect the fragile egosystem of our communities?  If we restrict freedom in favor of safety, what is the effect? What if we don't? How far is far enough and how far is too far?  Whose rights "weigh more?" 

Fear, anger, vulnerability, love, jealousy...they all have their place, even if it's merely to point us toward something that needs fixing.  Working responsibly within our egosystems means that we pay attention to the ego's messages and look to the sources, read the messages there, respond healthily and in ways that foster growth, peace, harmony, and self-respect for ourselves and others. WE look for ways to balance the needs of society with the needs and rights of individuals.

It's our world, this egosystem. We need to spend as much time working to protect our human emotional environment as we do our physical environment. Living "green" starts at home. So does living human, and in human terms, home is you and me.  Balancing and protecting our egosystems starts with us.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Greetings from San Francisco and an Opportunity to Do Good

Hello from beautiful San Francisco! It really is beautiful, too...the weather is gorgeous, the city vibrant and fun. I'm grateful to be here and wanted to share some photos with you from my touristy trip through town yesterday. I'll share those a little further down in this post, but first, something more important...

Have you heard about I am so totally pumped about this organization that is providing much-needed support for public and charter schools in the United States, one classroom, one teacher, one project at a time. By visiting the DonorsChoose website, anyone can view project requests from teachers all over the United States and donate any amount, large or small, to helping teachers reach those goals. You can search for projects by geographic area or by keywords so you can support your local area or a project that is dear to your heart. For your generosity, you get real thank you letters from teachers and students and photos of the students enjoying what you helped to support.

DonorsChoose is the brainchild of Charles Best, a former Bronx high school teacher. Charles kept having and hearing the same conversations among his fellow teachers. There simply wasn't any money available for the projects, library items, field trips, and equipment teachers wanted for their classrooms. Charles started simply with a low-tech approach; he used free desserts to bribe fellow teachers to visit a simple website he built and type in their most cherished projects, the ones they most wished they could do. He then anonymously funded the projects himself.

Word got out that the website worked, and requests spread. Charles enlisted his students for a volunteer letter writing campaign and raised the first $30,000 to fund DonorsChoose.

Now,'s website houses requests from teachers all over the United States. The requests are all checked out by a volunteer corps of teachers who have successfully used the program themselves and who make sure each project is legitimate and meets the criteria. Donors can read about projects and see how much money it will take to fund it, how much has been given, and how much is still needed.

DonorsChoose is funded in part by an optional 15% administrative fee that is included in each donation. Donors can leave the fee in place or opt out at their discretion. Some costs are still met by private donors, but the company expects to be self-funded in a few years.

Cooler still are some of the ways is working with corporations and companies. Imagine receiving a gift card from a company you do business with giving you the opportunity to make a donation to any project you choose, spending the company's money? Crate and Barrell did it, and it was a huge success. Other companies have done the same. What a great alternative to sending flowers or a box of chocolates or a tin of popcorn! believes in staying true to its original mission. When they recently received a million dollar award, they didn't think it was right to let the staff allocate the money. Instead, the put the money on gift cards and distribute them to allow others to make the choices. Here at the SNCR Forum, we each received $50 cards to go onto the site and pick any project we wanted to support. I love it! It was so much fun reading all the project requests and so hard to make a decision. In the end, though, I made my choice, a Tennessee classroom that needs a digital camera for projects. You can read about it here, and make a donation of your own if you like.

I hope you will choose to visit and to give, and I hope my company, Unum, will consider including DonorsChoose in their giving programs. I'm certainly going to make a case for it.

Now, as promised, photos. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day - More Than Just Recycling

I'm enjoying the flurry of messages bounding around my workplace, each encouraging us to recycle, plant trees, grow flowers, drive less, walk more...all the good, green practices that Earth Day brings to top of mind.

Along with all those active, Earth-friendly practices, I'd like to suggest that we add a mindfulness component to our Earth Day:
  • When you eat a meal, take a moment to be mindful of every aspect of that meal - where it was grown, how it got here, how it was prepared, wrapped, served. Who touched it along the way to bring it to you? Savor it all, not just the food but all the energy that went into bringing you nourishment.
  • When you work, take a moment to be mindful of all the tools you work with - the paper, the equipment, the power that runs them. Think about everything that went into bringing those things to your hand at this moment. What are they made of? Where did they come from? Who made them? Under what conditions? How did they get here?
  • When you walk outside, take a moment to be mindful of everything you see - the natural elements and the manmade. How do they work together? What impact does each have on the other? Are they thriving side-by-side? What do you see-hear-feel-smell? Sense the energy of the space; is it calm, peaceful, harmonious...or is it chaotic, agitated, discordant? Why?
  • When you walk inside, take a moment to feel the floor below you, to breathe the air, to notice the light. Try tracing all the elements of your indoor environment all the way back to their origins. Do you know what they're made of, how they're made, how they get here?
  • Notice the people you see, those you speak to and those you don't. Earth is not just grass and trees, clean air and water. WE are Earth, too. What can you do to promote health, harmony, happiness among the human natural resources in your life?
Mindfulness is a step toward gratitude...and those who know me, know I'm all about gratitude. When we view the world through grateful eyes, it changes the way we see everything, and the way we live.

Happy Earth Day, my Earthly friends (those I know, and those I don't)!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Sexiest Thing I've Read in a Long Time

Yes...yes, yes, yes!

I love this poem by fellow blogger Maithri Goonetielke at The Soaring Impulse. The imagery, the unashamed intimacy, the sensual nature of the words you feel more than read, and my favorite part...

Where wildness is sanctified, And humanness is holy...

What a wonderful place that is...where we don't try to separate our wild, human nature from our spitirual nature...where we embrace humanness and sexuality as holy...

...holy as a prayer;
...holy as a hymn;
...holy as a sacred fire and a spiritual dance to a drum dedicated to the god and goddess in us all.

Enjoy this gift...with love.


Come to me,

When the river
of Daylight
is at its ebb,

And I will show you
How soft
can be.

in this
Deep forest

Where yearning shadows
into the
open arms
of the suppliant earth,

Where the yellow eyed
Stalks the wind
with velvet step,

wildness is
And humanness
is holy,

I offer you this wounded

Come with me
And I will show
you the
that burns
without smoke

The branches
where the little spider
weaves love
from out the womb
of midnight,

The way
the naked stream dances
As she dreams of
the cool fingers
of the ocean

Kiss my skin
And Iwill breathe you
to the soul
of the music
I hear

I will search you
till i find the places
where you are

Lie down
with you
by the shoulders
of the fire,

for brokenness,

While the drum

Into the


Copyright - Maithri Goonetilleke 2008 on The Soaring Impuls blog

Monday, April 06, 2009

Saved by an Estrogen Tsunami

When you pray for rain, buy an umbrella.

I asked the universe to rain on me and end the creative drought I found myself in. Salvation came in torrents, waves of beautiful, quenching relief that washed over me like a flood, waking me up and bringing me back to life.

I went to a women's retreat this past weekend. We called it a Goddess Weekend, but I like the name a friend from Twitter used for a women's outing - an estrogen tsunami. (Thanks, @micrathene!)

This tsunami was made up of woman of all ages and stages of life. There were the just barely eighteens, the young mother suckling her son, the single, the married, the divorced, the mothers and grandmothers. Some were healthy and robust; some were battling illnesses. Some were happy and cheerful; some were seeking solace. It would be hard to find a more diverse group. Yet among them all there was a common thread of strength, creativity, survival.

How can I tell you how good it was to be in the company of these women? We laughed and talked and told stories. We shared a powerful ritual in which the maiden, the mother, and the crone used us to tell the stories and teach the lessons we needed to hear. We made food together and cleaned up together. We danced and celebrated being sexy and fun. We loaded our own gear in and out and hooked up our own electronics and backed our own cars in and out of the woods. It was fun, but most of all, it was healing. Whatever the cause of my creative drought, the beautiful, wild, soaking rain of my sisters' company has put it to rest.

In honor of the estrogen tsunami, I'll share some photos I took this weekend. Water is a favorite subject for me and my camera, and the light and patterns of the creek flowing over the rocks just fascinated me. Maybe it reminded me of the way we women flow through life...over rocks and jagged edges, under, over, and around obstacles, sometimes in a flood, sometimes in a trickle, but we keep moving, moving, moving. Along the way, we cleanse, heal, soothe, refresh, nourish...when needed, we reshape, remove, and destroy. We are strong, even when our touch is tender.

Rush on, sisters...rush on.