Be.Hold. JOY (& my 2014 manifesto)

Be.Hold. JOY (& my 2014 manifesto)


I find ecstasy in living — the mere sense of living is joy enough.

– Emily Dickinson

I took some time on New Year’s Eve day to be thoughtful about my 2013.  What was I celebrating?  What was I just as happy to be leaving in the year’s wake?  And in what ways was I preparing myself to be open for what 2014 has in store for me?  I paused at that one.


Can you relate to this?   I can become so consumed by all that I’m about that I forget to clear myself out for the unexpected.  And so often, the unexpected is waaaaaay better than anything I could have planned.  In my experience, the unexpected comes in the form of Joy.  It’s often a bit startling, nearly always spontaneous, and fully embodied.  Realizing this, last Tuesday morning, I began to smile, and then I began to laugh…and then I began to really, REALLY laugh.  Loud.  For about 5 minutes.  It felt so good and hearing my own voice only prompted me to laugh more.


And when the laughter slowed and subsided, the words on my lips were, “Be Joy.”  In this New Year, whenever possible, I want to Be Joy.


I will forget this desire.  I will forget it for moments – or days – at a time.  I will, once again, become consumed, or I will be overtaken by fears and anxieties that compete for my attention.  And so, considering this on New Year’s eve, I thought about all the people in my life who, through their own practice of Being Joy, remind me that I, too, can make that choice.  AND, that even when my own Joy feels far, far away, I can Hold the Joy of another.


You’ve noticed this, right?  The delight that comes from tasting the joy in the story of a friend, a child’s face walking down the street, or recalling something funny that happened the night before?  (If not, please watch this and let me know what happens – and I mean it: I want to hear from you!).  SO, if we can’t Be Joy, we can Hold Joy.  And then, Behold!  Joy abounds.  Why am I on a New Year’s jag about Joy?


Because things are dire, that’s why.  Because the world needs us and it needs us to show up in our Joy.


In the final days of a year, as is my tradition, I created my Vision Board for the year-to-be.  This manifesto created itself, with zero prompting. It was revealed in Joy and it offers a string of instruction that, to me, feels timely and perfect to share in the dawn of 2014.

2014 Vision Board Manifesto

2014 Vision Board Manifesto

Be.Hold. JOY! And from this place, let’s make some good change roll!

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year!!!





Sacred Activism (Part Two)

[This post, is the second of two (Sacred Activism, Part One, posted 8/1/2013).  Together, they form a homily I delivered at the ChI Interfaith Community monthly interfaith service on July 20, 2013.]


We need to ask not whether it is realistic or practical or viable but whether it is imaginable.   We need to ask if our consciousness and imagination have been so assaulted and co-opted by the royal consciousness that we have been robbed of the courage or power to think an alternative thought…

– Walter Brueggemann


In Sacred Activism, Part One, I asked us to check-in with ourselves about the ideas we currently hold around the word, “activism.”  We scrolled through a short list of some of today’s local and global issues inviting change, justice or transformation.  Then, just before going numb, spitting fire or admitting hopelessness, I suggested that there is NEW activist at work in our world; an activist who, standing on the shoulders of activist ancestry, has cultivated 3 unique characteristics –  sacred practices, we might say – to meet life fully engaged, moving beyond anger, beyond avoidance.   We began with Practice One: Begin with Love, Return to Love.  And now, I would like to describe two more.

Practice Two: Regenerative Humility, Rippling Faith

Climate March & Demonstration, L. Van Ham


Back in 2004, there were some Americans – myself among them – who really wanted a different president.  In Northern California, the tone of the election was wiry and frantic.  In a last-ditch effort, I volunteered at a phone bank, calling residents in swing states.  One night, I spoke woman in her 60s.  She lived in Ohio and I asked her if she would be voting in the election.  She said, “Oh, I sort of stopped doing that.”  “Really,” I pushed on, “When did you stop voting?”  “Well, the year I turned 21 was an election year and I was very excited to go to the polls.  The Daylight Savings Time measure was on the ballot and it didn’t pass the way I wanted it to, so I stopped.”  My jaw dropped.  There was nothing on my phone bank script that seemed a suitable response.   I took a deep breath, “That must have been disappointing for you.  Sometimes we don’t get the measures we vote for, but I do think it’s still really valuable to ask for what we want.  I really hope you’ll go to the polls next week.”


Because the starting point and returning point is always love, Regenerative Humility and Rippling Faith work in tandem for the New Activist.  This practice is about healing the whole by healing one’s self.  If that woman in Ohio had had some tools for being with her own disappointment, is it possible she wouldn’t have burnt-out so quickly?  In 2013, the very notion of Activism implies the Long-haul.


Humility keeps us curious and from becoming overly focused on the outcomes.  What do I mean by Regenerative Humility?  I’m describing something that is less interested in changing the world (outside in) and more aware of how the world is changing me (inside out).


Humility becomes regenerative, when it believes in real transformation, at a pace that can sustain the inevitable set-backs or disappointments along the way.


To find this staying power, humility is in symbiotic relationship with Faith.  The New Activist has faith that just he or she is doing does his or her own work, others are doing their work also.  Rippling Faith is where these two meet.  It’s where our mutual efforts co-mingle and inspire one another, neither angry, nor avoidant.  Rippling Faith is Shamanic; it’s a deep knowing that what is above is also below; that we can move forward with receptivity, steadiness and compassion toward what is happening and what will be.


Practice Three: Prophetic Imagination

The last practice I want to highlight, for now, is Prophetic Imagination.  If this is a new term for you, please explore it.  The New Activist looks to Prophetic Imagination as a North Star, and also as an unwavering source of inspiration.  It is the North Star because, when we consider how we got here, at all, we have the holiest of all Imaginations to thank.  In the words of Thomas Berry,

“If the dynamics of the universe from the beginning shaped the course of the heavens, lighted the sun, and formed the earth….(with) seas and the atmosphere, if it awakened life in the primordial cell…and               finally brought us into being and guided us through the turbulent centuries, there is reason to believe that this same guiding process is precisely what has awakened in us our present understanding of ourselves and our relations to this stupendous process.”  


Who are the prophets?  They are the visionaries, the restless ones.  Prophets are the historians who tell our story using paint, poetry, dreams and dance.

Murals & Imagination, Cuba. L. Van Ham

The prophetic imagination puts treasure immediately at our fingertips.  And it is also our prophetic imagination that brings fresh eyes to see the issues that have been cleverly avoided or brushed aside as “a thing of the past.”

And so now my closing question, who is this New Activist? 

This activist is moving in you (yes, you…and you, too), and in every single one of us.


The Sacred Activist, is US.


We create the world we imagine and there is a time-sensitive invitation at stake for us all.  What story is our history t0 tell, with our poetry, our visions, our first-hand account of living life fully right now?  What do you love?  Where can curiosity provide renewed energy?





Lean into it; make art (click that!); tell a story; see what happens…


Bibliography and Photo Credits:

Stanford SIQSS



Fair Trade? It’s Personal…

Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave – that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm.  …This courage allows us… to make ourselves useful. It allows us to be generous, which is another way of saying exactly the same thing.

-Marilynne Robinson

To affirm that men and women are persons and as persons should be free, and yet to do nothing tangible to make this affirmation a reality, is a farce.

– Paulo Friere

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.




In addition to being National Bike Month, Mother’s Day, Beltane and so many other things, May celebrated World Fair Trade Day (May 16th).  This blog’s been live since January of this year and strangely, I’ve managed to not mention Fair Trade…not once.


You’ve maybe noticed of late, the Fair Trade movement has been getting a lot of air time.  Certifying agencies are at odds with one another, struggling with the impact-and-scale quandary:

“If we go BIG, the standards will be diluted, we’ll surrender to the sub-standard norms accepted across a flattened, global economy,” versus, “If we DON’T go big, we will never attain the scale required for this movement to have world-changing impact.”


Round, round the dilemma goes…


What do I think?  I think our world is a big webby mess.  And like the myriad other ecological, sustainability-related questions routinely rolling over in my head and heart, I arrive at my answer, an active response: make it personal.  Sort of like theBuddhasaying, “Don’t take my word for it…,” I arrived at my commitment to support Fair Trade by exploring the concept as intimately as possible.  Here’s what I mean:


5:30amfinds me most mornings in the dark and in my pajamas (how’s that for intimate?).  Whether off to the Berkeley Y for a spin work-out, or mentally running through my agenda for the day, the first thing on my mind is coffee.  I happen to LOVE the stuff – “nectar of the gods,” I call it – and I look forward to it pretty much every morning of my life.  After a few sips, I feel a certain at-one-ment, a readiness to be with whatever presents itself in the hours ahead.  My morning coffee is more than a caffeinated beverage, it’s a ritual that falls in the category I call, “ordinary/extraordinary.”  It’s so mundane, it’s sacred; it’s so simple, it’s a miracle.  Knowing this and not wanting to be unappreciative, I traveled to Guatemala in 2011…to make it personal.

Flor, Raniero, Lauren - Lake Atitlan 1/2011

This is Raniero, and his niece, Flor.  Raniero coordinates a Fair Trade cooperative in Guatemala.  His cooperative supplies parts of Europe and most of Whole Foods (Allegro coffee) with fair trade coffee beans.  Upon landing in Guatemala City, Raniero and Flor drove me out to the shores of Lake Atitlan to meetMariaLuis.


Maria Luis, aside one of her many bags of coffee cherries


To find her, we scrambled up a steep, jungle-covered mountainside.  It was a Saturday  morning which meant Maria had the help of her sons, most of whom were adamant they would not grow up to be coffee farmers.


Maria Luis, aglow & storytelling


Maria Luis smiled as she told the story of her organic, fair trade coffee cherries (beans), start-to-finish.  She gestured up the slope, explaining the land was hers and that she oversees a women-owned collective.  In the months between the planting and harvest, she and the women cook and sell their meals for folks in town.  This year, the profits from their coffee crop would be pooled to create a covered infrastructure to better support their catering business.




Members of Maria Luis's collective, standing in their newly-constructed catering headquarters


If coffee cherries are picked incorrectly from the plant, the stem will fail to produce next year


Caressing the coffee cherries in her basket,MariaLuisgently laughed, “my husband left a long time ago….he said he couldn’t understand me.”


Listening, weeping

As I listened, I wept….I was so touched by her vision, by the prideshe held for her work, by the joy she exhibited in sharing her life with strangers.  A cherry slipped from her basket and I scrambled to pick it up.  Each one was suddenly worth a fortune!  These coffee cherries – no bigger than my fingernail – were fundingMariaLuis’s sons dreams of attending college…and how many of those cherries-become-roasted-beans do I groggily grind each morning for my perfect cup of deliciousness?  Never again could a bean fall to my floor and find its eternal fate beneath my refrigerator or stove: perish the thought!


So much story in this little cherry!



Thanks to the city council, local businesses and the great volunteers from the Fair Trade Berkeley steering committee, Berkeley became the 19th Fair Trade Town in the US, in July, 201o.  When I returned home from Guatemala, I thought ofMariaLuisand cringed a little each time I saw an abandoned, unfinished cup of coffee.  It had become personal.




And it happened all over again on May 16th , when a few of us had the chance to celebrate World Fair Trade Day with Lata ji, a Fair Trade activist, visiting the US for the first time, from her home in Barmer, India.  Thanks to the influence of Fair Trade in Lata’s village, a source of amazing textile work, girls are attending school, women are receiving vaccines and the town is funding irrigation systems to address years of drought.

Lata ji and FT Berkeley friends

Will the certification standard changes being made by some dilute the potential of Fair Trade as its felt by the producers and their villages?  Maybe…and I hope not.  Will the certification standard changes increase the reach of the fair trade movement to create a game-changing impact?  Maybe, I hope so, and only if more of us play.


In that ordinary/extraordinary way, may we intimately know and generously admit, “there is more beauty than our eyes can bear.”  Our response needn’t be to save it all, to feed hundreds.  Instead, we can honor what’s precious, and in our hands.  Make it personal.


FT Berkeley Declaration Celebration, July, 2010



What just happened?

[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 have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing. 

And nothing happens!  Nothing…

Nothing happens?  Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly
in the new life?


It’s been one week since my 320 mile journey from Fortuna, CA ended safe and soppy at San Francisco’s City Hall.  Since then, with all of you in mind, I’ve been trying to piece together a synopsis of the event – a couple of cleanly written, succinct and inspiring paragraphs to summarize the success of our activism and the mission we accomplished.


Much to my own confusion, I can’t.


It’s not that there wasn’t success, which I’ll get to in a minute.  But last Thursday, upon leaving the 124 other cyclists and walking my bike towardBART, I was weighted-down by more than my backpack.  I was feeling an unwelcome sense of anti-climax.




In ways I could never have predicted, last week’s Climate Ride was epic: Northern California’s rainy season began the evening of day one, and day two featured a winding 12 mile mountain descent in a downpour.  The fourth night delivered a midnightstorm so severe tents were ripped apart. On a brighter note, the week also included miles of coast-side pedaling, paralleling pelicans flying in formation.  And, the fortitude of the group was astounding! Individually, each of us admitted we wanted a warm bath and dry clothes, but as a group, we surprised every doubter within by showing-up to breakfast each morning, bedecked in spandex, ready to ride.  I am no longer afraid of cycling in the rain, even when my shoes are squishing puddles and the raindrops are forming a waterfall at the end of my nose!

Sun for a second, Day 4





There is a lesson here, right?  It’s about meeting adversity, and digging deep into the reservoir that’s created by community.  It’s a success well worth mentioning since climate change forecasts include perfectly lousy weather and natural disasters likely to have us wishing for a warm bath, but pushing us instead to ban together and to respond as best we can.  And, THIS, I think offers insight to my mood following the ride.


Did we, as Climate Riders, accomplish our mission?  We did!  Do you know that of the 325 of you on this list, more than 100 of you gave money to my Climate Ride?  A 30% response!!!  And together, we raised $6500 of the nearly $300,000 received for this year’s Climate Ride beneficiaries.  Thank you so, SO much.  Your generosity has been incredible.


Was our activism successful?  I don’t have an answer because I’m now seeing, it’s the WRONG question. JuanRamonJimenez‘s words above describe perfectly how I feel about “activism” in today’s world.  Like you, I like my life to flow easefully along with humor, beauty and love.  Death, heartache, and fear are messy and inconvenient.  Riding every mapped mile of the Climate Ride did not bring an end to the grief I feel toward what could be a future none of us would wish for, nor did it immediately change the decisions made by CEOs and political leaders around the world.  But this doesn’t mean that “nothing happened.”

Dear CEOs of America...


Cycling through the hush of the redwood groves, riding high above the white caps hitting the jagged rocks below, attempting to mimic those incredible pelicans in flight, I was reminded to soften (my grip), to relax (into the downhill), and to love (in the face of uncertainty).   And, like it or not, you were all there with me!

Last Thursday morning, preparing to ride our final 40 miles into San Francisco, the rain showers grew louder and louder upon the make-shift meal tent.  One of our pack  reveled fervently, “Harder!  HARDER!!!!”  And the rest of us, heads thrown back, joined-in, howling hearty invitations to the pouring skies.  In the face of life’s inevitable hurts, inconveniences and uncertainties, a practice of “inviting in” might be the best plan there is.  Did nothing happen?  Did everything happen?  I’ll let you decide.  Thank you, all, for taking this Climate Ride with me, and for showing me, again, this ever-anew life.

City Hall, San Francisco

Go Ahead, Spend it ALL!

“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It’s a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got to hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing on to future generations.”  (George Bernard Shaw)


On October 24th—United Nations Day—people around the planet performed hundreds of actions, stunts and demonstrations of earth stewardship as part of the largest climate awareness day in history. The goal was to build an international campaign that visibly joined science, action and justice to advocate for climate protection.

The day focused on “350,” the number that scientists have determined to be the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere. It can seem a bit overwhelming, I know, but breathe with me for one geeky moment: CO2 gets measured in “parts per million” (ppm), so 350 ppm is the number we must get below globally to sustain ourselves safely on the planet.

Trees for Sky

For many of us, if we don’t understand what’s behind a number, we’re likely to forget it or brush it off as “someone else’s math problem.” Cleverly, (the non-profit behind the campaign) decided to de-bunk the scientific complexity by creating a different kind of PPM—a “people powered movement.”

So, beginning at dawn in Australia and straight on ‘til twilight in Hawaii, people around the world put a human face on 350: aerial photographs captured large 3-5-0s formed by sailboats in the ocean and by humans clustered on land ravaged by clear-cutting; 350 flags were raised on mountaintops from Mongolia to Antarctica to Yosemite. Trees were planted, church bells rung (350 times!), clowns paraded, and yogis meditated in great imaginative surges of collective vision for all who would receive it.

I spent that morning in the Oregon woods, with a child, named Eliana. Ellie, as she’s called, is nearly two. Together with her Mom, we walked through the crisp air, pausing often—enchanted by the hush of the forest and halted by the golden, red and amber leaves. It was, most certainly, the best climate awareness prayer I could offer at that moment.

“Ellie, do you see how big this leaf is?”  I inquired.

Instinctively, she took it in her small hand, as one might a small banner. With one in each hand and with focused fascination, Ellie tottered down the path, flapping her butterfly-leaf wings. The leaves were so big that they wrapped about her torso. In the autumnal light, their color was nearly iridescent.

Ellie and Lauren in Revelry

How do leaves attain this annual greatness and why, then, do they fall? … I’m not really asking for the how or why. Yet I do feel beyond-grateful for nature’s senseless beauty, generosity and surrender.

A great love for our precious, priceless, precarious earth fueled 5,200 events in 181 countries last Saturday.

Thai Buddhist teacher,AjahnChah, instructed, “Do everything with a mind that lets go. Don’t accept praise or gain or anything else. If you let go a little you will have a little peace; if you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace; if you let go completely you will have complete peace.”

Botany does everything with a mind that lets go. Flowers don’t hold back or wait for the hummingbird’s praise. Have you ever seen a zucchini in August “think small”?  And now, the leaves. They are not self-consciously withholding; rather, they let go…lavishly so!

In this way Nature shows us to let go, to pour forth, to share our fullest “leaf-selves” generously without fear, expectation, or reservation. Upon reaching the ground, each leaf, thoroughly used up, is received by greater fecundity still. A rich regenerative cycle will support it on its way to re-birth and fruition once more.

Similarly, when our own practice of letting go releases us from thinking small and crawls up from our Divine root system, we can spend our lives and our love freely, faithfully letting go, without attachment to outcomes. We can join withGeorgeBernardShawand, “rejoice in life for its own sake….and burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

So…let it go!  The planet is inviting humans everywhere to act.

How will you serve the people powered “350”?

Surrender your beauty; give it away and use it up. There is plenty more where it came from.

NOTE: To see nature’s beauty, generosity and surrender in action in the human form, you might enjoy the slideshow waiting for you at:

And if those photos feel too global, go local by spending some time with Mother Earth and your favorite child.


The Making of an Eco-chaplain

The Making of an Eco-Chaplain

A year ago, I began to see that my work was changing.  Caring for the Earth had become my deep love in ministry.  I’ll admit I’ve been making it up as I go, but I’ve been calling the work “Eco-chaplaincy.”  I say it with love and dread because after all, what does it mean when our Earth is so ravaged that it too, like a prison or the Iraqi desert, needs a chaplain?  And what, exactly, does an Eco-chaplain do?

I found my answer at Walmart.

Lauren visits her first Walmart

My Eco-chaplain livelihood found its groove when I joined the founding team that designed and facilitated over 200 day-long sustainability workshops for the 1.2 million associates of Walmart Stores, Inc. Traveling across the country in the Spring of 2007, speaking with the faces of America at hundreds upon hundreds of Walmarts—a place I had been taught to oppose and avoid—I turned toward love. With a necessary naiveté and “beginner’s mind,” I entered corporate America to invite change, to be changed, and to provide space to consider a new operating practice.

One of my all-time favorite movies is MaryPoppins.  I love how Mary finds magic in the mundane.  I also love her fastidious tendencies.  For a good long while now, I’ve wished I could snap my fingers and – just like the toys inJaneandMichael’s nursery – have the environment return itself to a lush, forested, healthy planet.  InMaryPoppin’s world, it’s fine to use what’s around you and to play with vigor, so long as you put it back…each article in its right place.

There is no "away!"

In my work with Fortune 500 employees, I facilitate retreats where we talk about, “nano-practices.” It sounds technical, and it is based on a great deal of theory, but its essence is exceedingly simple: small actions result in big impacts.

Take, for example, a participant from the retreat at Frito-Lay Headquarters – I’ll call him Mark.  I askedMarkwhat one action – one behavior change – he wanted to exercise regularly to bring greater sustainability to his life and the planet. Marksaid, “I’d like to spend more time with my family.”

“That sounds great,” I said intrigued, “How does it help the planet?”  “Well,”Markschemed, “….one night a week, we’ll turn off the TV and go for a walk, as a family.” I nodded, liking where this was going, “We’ll save electricity and spare CO2 emissions by not using electricity; we’ll be out in the park getting exercise and enjoying nature together…AND!”  Markwas getting pretty excited, “we’ll also pick up litter while we’re out walking. Any recyclables we collect, we’ll cash in and give the money to a charity.”

Small actions; big impacts.

Through this work, I’m reminded again that a chaplain’s call is to bring connection; to prophetically state, “Here, and now! No matter how set apart, lost or beyond-love this place may appear, the Source of our Breath abides here, too.” Looking for God or honoring the mystery in a variety of settings is the work of a chaplain. Just as the chapel stands apart from a church or temple, a chaplain endeavors to create sacred space in the free-standing complexity of hospitals, campuses, military bases and, yes, corporations (even Walmart).

A Joy-filled moment during corporate retreat at the Houston Zoo


Furthermore, an Eco-chaplains’ calling is to serve and act with Joy.  I feel strongly that activism is defined as much by the peace-marching, protesting activist as by the devoted nano-practitioner who experiences a ripple over time— and that it works best when our actions bring us joy. Mother Earth wouldn’t have it any other way; it is written in the scriptures of every Faith Tradition I know.

Eco-chaplains, unite! The planet has made her aches known and the scientists have let humanity know we have a limited amount of time to act. May you be moved to act boldly, and to live and serve from the place of your deepest joy.