What is Losing?

[This post belongs in a series of 7 entries written to build community and receive donations to support the Climate Ride, a 320 mile cycling pilgrimage I made in October, 2011.  Several entries focus on and celebrate the particular efforts of each of the 4 NGOs I designated to receive funds I raised for the ride.]


“Tut, Tut, it looks like rain.”

– ChristopherRobin, Winnie-the-Pooh


“View all problems as challenges. Don’t run from them, condemn yourself or bear your burden in saintly silence.  You have a problem?  Great.  More grist for the mill.  Rejoice, dive in and investigate.”

– Ven. Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English


Last week, in the final throes the fundraising countdown, I mused about winning.  I’ve enjoyed conversations with several of you this week about ‘fessing-up to my competitive nature.  AND…as an aspiring non-dualist, it got me thinking a lot about losing.  What is losing?


I’m seeing that, for me, losing happens when I shut down.  Do you know the sort of “shutting down,” I’m talking about?  There are 3 times I feel it most: when I’m afraid, when I “know” something (HA!), and (this is a tough one) when I’m feeling self-conscious.  Yep, alone or in combination, these are the perfect ingredients for me to shut down…and in such a moment, I have EVERYTHING to lose.


On Monday I learned, along with my fellow Climate Riders, that rain is in next week’s forecast…for at least 3 of the 5 days.  “Oh, Nooooooooo,” the voice reverberated though my head.  It was fear kicking-in and I began to shut down.  …THEN, I remembered how just the day before, I’d spent the morning cycling in the rain.  I re-visited the experience in my mind: I was dry beneath my windbreaker; the redwood trees above leant extra shelter from the falling drops; my brakes responded perfectly, and my friends and I arrived safely at our destination.  Truth be told, many moments of the ride were beautifully pleasant!  Hmmmm….


Riding between raindrops, Hwy 1

Before climate change began, it was fairly safe to presume September and early October were rain-free times in Northern California.  And while rain isn’t exactly a problem, I tend to believe that climate change is.  I could be wrong, so I will hold the question openly, trying to notice when my fear or righteous indignation kick-in.  I will try instead, for these next 5 days to un-self-consciously, sing in the rain and practice the instructions offered above by the Venerable Gunaratana, “Rejoice, dive in and investigate.”


I believe that responding to climate change is a GROUP activity.  I know most of you agree because the support you’ve shown me in my fundraising these past months has been incredible.  You’ve already done so much, and I encourage you to ride along next week.  Let’s rejoice, dive in and investigate this beautiful, messy, amazing world of ours together!  Reportedly, cell and wireless service is spotty at BEST along our coastal route, but should the cell gods and goddesses smile, check my Google Plus posts.  Don’t worry!  If a techno-phob like me can do it, you can too.

Bien Viaje!


Alright, I’m off…but, wait!  You’re still caught in winners/losers suspense, huh?  I came in 2nd and won a trip to Glacier National Park!  How fun is that??  Thanks for all your support!

Lauren Muses about Winning

[This post belongs in a series of 7 entries written to build community and receive donations to support the Climate Ride, a 320 mile cycling pilgrimage I made in October, 2011.  Several entries focus on and celebrate the particular efforts of each of the 4 NGOs I designated to receive funds I raised for the ride.]


“This is not about the whales anymore.  It’s about us.”

– Thomas L. Friedman

“Live in Joy; live in Peace, even among the troubled.”

The Buddha

Last weekend, I received an email that really surprised me.  Climate Ride organizers wrote to let me know I was $32 behind the TOP Fundraiser for the Ride.  Wow, only $32!!!  …And then the other emails came, reminding all us cyclists of the incentives and the prizes we could win.  Having paid very little attention to incentives thus far, I watched my response: “Hmmmm, what could I win?”  And then, “What am I talking about?  I don’t need anything.”  Which was followed by, “Lauren, are you afraid to win?  Is winning a bad thing?”

Are you familiar with this conversation?  I used to deny that I was a competitive person.  While I’m not totally comfortable with winning, what’s more true, is that I really hate losing.  I like it when we all succeed….together!  So what does this mean in regards to climate change and the health of our Earthly home?  For starters, the Friedman quote above is short-sided and we all know it (evenTom).  If the whales lose, we all lose.  More compellingly, though, I am struck by the Buddha’s invitation – to find a place of joy and peace, and to stay with it, despite the challenges surrounding us.  This practice doesn’t place value on winning or losing, but rather on showing up and being present, for whatever is happening.  It’s a highly active response and one that requires a great deal of tending.

Tomorrow, Sept 23rd, the fundraising totals for the Climate Ride will be tallied.  Will I win?  Will I lose?  Ack!  I feel a tightening in my chest!!!  I’m cycling in the Climate Ride so that we might ALL win – the whales, the trees, the earthworms, all of us; AND…I’m cycling in the Climate Ride as part of my practice to show up for that which is without guarantee.  I have no idea if humans will win or lose in our struggle to protect the Earth and Her species.  Amidst, the eco-news that can be troubling indeed, I intend to cultivate joy and peace, whenever and wherever possible.

For those of you who’ve already given, thank you very much!  AND, If you’re someone who would still like to give, you have ONE day left!  Thank you all so much for your support!

We’re Mammals and We’re Wild!

[This post belongs in a series of 7 entries written to build community and receive donations to support the Climate Ride, a 320 mile cycling pilgrimage I made in October, 2011.  Several entries focus on and celebrate the particular efforts of each of the 4 NGOs I designated to receive funds I raised for the ride.]


Happy Friday!  There are two weeks left until the Climate Ride.  My training rides have gotten longer and my legs are (I think!) ready for the gusty winds and infamous hills jagging up and down the Pacific coast.

This week, I’m giving a bow of gratitude to my fourth and final NGO, the NRDC – the Natural Resources Defense Council.  In addition to forging strong relationships with influential companies like Walmart, the NRDC has its 300+ lawyers and scientists working in China, India and the Americas to address global warming, the health of the oceans, pollution reduction, defending wild places, and fostering sustainable communities.  One visit to their website will illustrate the many-faceted approach of this organization and why they have 1.3 million people like you and me giving them support.  They tout great success, they’re good at what they do, AND they share great resources for any of us trying to answer confounding questions like, “which is worse, a conventional car or disposing of a Prius battery?”


This week:  NRDC  http://www.nrdc.org/

Their mission: To safeguard the Earth: its people, its plants and animals and the natural systems on which all life depends.

Geek Treat:  One acre of trees annually consumes the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent to that produced by driving an average car for 26,000 miles. That same acre of trees also produces enough oxygen for 18 people to breathe for a year.  More than 20 percent of the world oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest, and one-fifth of the world’s fresh water is in the Amazon Basin.  (New York Times, and Rainforest Alliance)


And now…We’re Mammals and We’re Wild!


“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out
going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…”
 John Muir


I don’t know if Muir’s message above is really true or not.  I know that I WANT it to be true.  I know that it’s true for me, and it’s true for a good many of you, as well.   On days when I’m irrationally hung-up on a silly detail, or feeling overly-anxious for no good reason, it’s time spent in nature that brings my being into balance.  Digging in the dirt, laying in the grass, smelling the Cedar tree as I pedal passed….these acts of everyday wilderness are a necessity for me.  They help me reconcile my human do-ing  tendencies, with my human be-ing nature.  Wilderness reminds me that amidst all this work and activity, I’m a MAMMAL….and there’s something really, really wonderful about that!

Domesticated Mammal Collaboration

The human mammals working at the NGOs the Climate Ride funds support do a lot of work on behalf of our species.  The beautiful reality of inter-dependence, however, means that even more of the work done by the NGOs is done on behalf of the wild spaces and wild species on which our lives depend.  Whether it’s walking your tail-wagging friend around the block, or getting lost in the woods for a week with your backpack, I pray each of us cultivates intimacy with the wilderness around us.  May we admit the necessity of its place in our action-packed lives and may we celebrate its ability to connect us to our wonderfully mammalian inheritance.


Wild, Wacky Mammals


And since we’ve been talking about it — and it is nearly the weekend — are you ready to do something a little WILD?  How about supporting the work of the NRDC by giving to my Climate Ride???

P.S. Congratulations to those of you who received a FREE Green America membership last week.  There are still a few Freebies left with a contribution of $50 or more to my Climate Ride.  Will that new Green America member be Y-O-U???

Act Local: Meet your Neighbors!

[This post belongs in a series of 7 entries written to build community and receive donations to support the Climate Ride, a 320 mile cycling pilgrimage I made in October, 2011.  Several entries focus on and celebrate the particular efforts of each of the 4 NGOs I designated to receive funds I raised for the ride.]


I’m in the three week countdown until the Climate Ride!  My NGO of the week is Green America, an extraordinary national co-op offering its members free information & consultation, educational grass-roots tool-kits on topics ranging from socially responsible investing to getting off of junk mail, and lots of discounts for earth-friendly, sustainable products and services.  Formerly known as Co-op America, Green America has made BIG change possible, by empowering communities at the local level.  AND…It just so happens, Green America wants to help me in my fundraising this week, so if you’re tempted by the word FREE, please keep reading.


This week: Green America http://www.greenamerica.org/

Their mission: To harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.

Geek Treat:  Today, 23.5 million Americans live in food deserts, or communities where residents have little access to fresh, healthy food. Residents in food deserts commonly rely on convenience stores and fast food outlets, which mainly sell high-fat, low-nutrition food.  This summer,First Lady Michelle Obama announced the California FreshWorks Fund (CAFWF), a $200 million public-private loan fund that will provide financing for over 1500 grocery stores and other healthy food outlets in the state’s food deserts.  AND…Thanks to the Calvert Foundation, you can invest in this fund with as little as $20.


And now…Act Local: Meet Your Neighbors!


The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual.
The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community.


This weekend, as each of us is remembering where we were 10 years ago, on the 11th of September, I’m thinking about neighbors, literally and figuratively.  The phrase, “think global, act local,” gets all its employment because it’s really true.  Change begins with one breath, one phone call, one neighborly, “hello,” offered on the street – or in my case – a dinner invitation from over the fence.  Do you know your neighbors by name?  Have you ever asked them for a lawn rake or a cup of sugar?


Dinner with my neighbors

Neighborhood Bike Ride


In my work as a sustainability consultant, we went to great lengths to explain that    “sustainability” isn’t just about “going green.”  Living and acting sustainably is connected to health, and economics and tending the unique culture of our communities, as well.  I became a member of Green America sometime after 9/11.  Reading their publications and participating in their simple, informative grassroots actions have empowered me to start a Low-Carbon Diet group in my neighborhood, switch to a community bank, join a local car-share, make Berkeley a Fair Trade Town, and even grow food that I can share with my neighbors (admittedly, my garden prowess has room for improvement!).


Making Fair Trade Neighbors

In a world where the problems can be so large and so plentiful, it brings me JOYto support my neighbors and their local business endeavors.  Together, we’re sharing our resources and finding true wealth.   As we remember September 11th and the change that rippled around the globe that day, may we find heart and take action….locally!   The next 10 people who donate $50 or more to my campaign will receive a FREE year-long membership.  I told you there was a FREE part!  How cool is that?


Neighborhood Dance Party!

Thank you all so much for your support!

The Tar Sands? Let’s RE-create our Behavior

[This post belongs in a series of 7 entries written to build community and receive donations to support the Climate Ride, a 320 mile cycling pilgrimage I made in October, 2011.  Several entries focus on and celebrate the particular efforts of each of the 4 NGOs I designated to receive funds I raised for the ride.]

Happy Long Weekend!

Last Friday, I featured The East Bay Bike Coalition, a local organization doing work that’s close to my heart, in my neighborhood.  I would be remiss, this week, if I didn’t recognize 350.org, a national organization making grassroots activism an international sensation…AND whose founder,BillMcKibbenwas arrested this week while protesting the Keystone XL Tar Sands pipeline.

This week: 350.org http://www.350.org/

Their mission: 350.org is building a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis.

Geek Treat:  To preserve our planet the way we like to live on it, scientists say we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 392 parts per million to below 350 ppm. Using grassroots wizardry (social media) and brilliant simplicity (people & cameras), 350.org invites change at the global level.  At the end of 2010, they coordinated a climate art project so large it had to be photographed from a satellite in outer space.  WoooHOOOOOOO!


And now… Let’s RE-create our Behavior

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

–         AlbertEinstein

Climate Change is slow and sneaky in its signs; it doesn’t register for humans with the same urgency another crisis might.  The non-profit, 350.org invites us (YOU and ME) to create educational tools and visuals to translate the brain-bending concepts into ideas that invite behavior change. Thank you, 350!

So are we changing our behavior?  As we head into the Labor Day weekend, I’m thinking about the word, “recreation.”  It’s what we do on weekends, right?  Especially 3-day ones, that are set-aside to honor our “labors,” and take a break, no?  And while it isn’t always true, I’m struck by how often our acts of recreation are actually creation destructive (i.e., energy-intensive electronics, resource-depleting cruise trips or golf courses).  What if the word were, “RE-Creation?”  With some creative reframing (see 350.org above), can we care for Creation through our recreation?

Today marks the 13th day of a 14-day sit-in at the White House to protest the Keystone Tar Sands oil pipeline.  Since it began, over 800 people have been arrested in one of the largest environmentally-focused acts of civil disobedience in U.S. history.  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/22/opinion/tar-sands-and-the-carbon-numbers.html?_r=1

And the Tar Sands?  The Alberta, Canada Tar Sands produce over 36 million tons of carbon dioxide per day, more than 1.3 million cars. Tar sands are the 2nd largest pool of carbon on earth (Saudi Arabia’s oil takes 1st)…and one of the biggest greenhouse gas offenders.  Why?  The extraction of petroleum from tar sands creates far more greenhouse emissions than conventional production does.  Currently, Canada plans to double its tar sands production over the next decade to more than 1.8 million barrels a day – a rate that will mean cutting down some 740,000 acres of boreal forest — a natural carbon reservoir.

To me, this is a big invitation to Re-Create and behave differently.  After all, some of the best economy-enhancing ideas we’ve had this year have been about renewable energy, green jobs and closed-loop thinking.   Tomorrow, while I’m on a training ride, getting high off the California Redwoods’ oxygen offerings, those brave, creative activists at the White House will deliver a petition asking Obama to ban this silly, uninventive pipeline idea.  If you haven’t signed yet, you have time.  Go here: http://act.350.org/sign/tar-sands/?rd=1
Thank you all so much for your support!