Friday, October 09, 2009

Letter From the Future for Martin Keo book, pub tbd

Dear Reader,
I was musing on what to write for this essay when an email came in with the subject, “Letter from Vicki, 2030.” No, it’s not a hoax. I opened it and now offer it to you as better than anything I might write in 2008. I hope you find it as heartening as I did.
Vicki Robin
Langley, WA March 2008

Dear Vicki,
Hello from 2030 from your 85-year-old-self (yes, we still have our teeth and still dance). We just got the inter-time communications system up and running and every one of us alive gets to write one free letter to our younger self. There are so many restrictions on what we can say. I can’t tell you exactly what is happening. I can’t try to “change history.” You can’t write me back. Rules! As you can see, anal bureaucrats are still with us, but I understand their reasoning. We’ve made it into a very decent future but had to cross quite a desert to get here. Out of pure love we’d all like to spare you the suffering and change the past, but the GWC (Global Wisdom Council) says that if we eliminate the stripping away we might damage the peace we’ve made with living here.

Even though I can’t steer you (as if you would ever let anyone do that!) I can shine a light on the choices you are already making -- sort of like, “Nudge nudge, hint hint, step there.” I can’t tell you about the stunning innovations and twists of fate that got us to quite a grand 2030. I can only talk to you about what you already know. Don’t ask around to see if anyone you know got a similar email. A lot of them just didn’t make it into the future and they’ll feel bad knowing that. Of course, by getting this you know that you, my dear, will survive another 22 years. After this, lord knows what will happen to “us.”

If you are about to hit delete, thinking this is a hoax, please at least read this quick and dirty key to your future: less, local and love. Use less, live local and love other people, because they are what sees you through.

Hint One: Save – and make - energy
You made a good choice in 2008 to do an Airplane Fast and not fly for a year. The irony of flying around the world to lecture people on sustainable living finally got to you. You learned to travel electronically while letting your body stay more still. From that you started to belong where you are and, as you’ll see later, community is what the future is all about. I think now of the David Waggoner lines “Stand still. The trees ahead and the bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here.” Here, though, is now everywhere as well. The web is humming on levels you can’t imagine and frankly there’s been a big sigh of relief that air transport is constrained for… well, I can’t say. Think of the innovations in the last five years – YouTube, Wikis, Blogs, Webcams. Consider Moore’s Law (computing power doubles every 18 months). Add the intuitive capacities you’ve seen in young children – and yourself. And contemplate what “here” might mean to me. Planes to use seem like jalopies.

While staying home, you’d also do well to follow those impulses to make home more energy efficient. Hint, don’t buy any more lamps for screw-in bulbs; more efficient lighting is coming soon. Hint, just drive your 50-mpg Honda Insight until it dies; you’ll be amazed what’s next in mob-tech (that’s mobility technology). Here I just have to bite my tongue. I’ll just say that if someone we know invests in some Wind Farm Venture on her island or in some Solar Installation business she might be set for life. It used to be location location location. Now It’s local local local. By staying home you will see many opportunities to retrofit home for a Post-Peak-Oil future. You’ll also find yourself getting political, because shared solutions for energy are better than just putting solar hot water on your roof – as you will anyway.

Hint Two: Grow food
We’ve now studied the behavior of our species in transition and have discovered that a spike in “lawns to lunch” (home garden acreage) is a leading indicator of impending resource constraints. The future casts a shadow for those who pay attention to the horizon, and when people hanker after land and gardening like they used to hanker after opera and travel, you know a shift is coming. Follow all your impulses to grow food, to organize local food systems, to sidle up to neighbors with lawns and suggest you could find a young farmer who’d love to turn that useless mono-crop of grass into breakfast, lunch and dinner. Save seeds. Go ahead, if you want, and buy land to grow food, but frankly you have a talent for growing kale and zucchini – and not much else. Support CSAs. Partner with other singles to do a share. You’ve been thinking about raising chickens. All I’ll say is, “Not a bad idea.” Or join that goat coop, take that cheese-making class and buy up all the used canning jars at the thrift store. Think food. Dream food. Do food. Eat food (but less).

Hint Three: Make peace with your past – and future
I’m not going to kid you. Some really hard knocks are coming. Some are just as you imagine, others are not. A way of life based on treating finite resources as infinite is ending, and we are still living with the shocks and aftershocks of it. We were slow to move on the mandate of 80% reduction of carbon by 2050 and are reaping the consequences. Yes, there have been environmental catastrophes (but there have also been “benestrophes” – unexpected accumulations of good). Yes, many have died; some at their own hands, since living within the means of the planet didn’t seem like living at all. Be prepared to live through this, knowing that in the larger scheme of thing - and nature - it’s quite natural for populations to overshoot and collapse. Death itself isn’t as tragic as living in fear of death and allowing suspicion and greed to flourish in your mind. Cultivate a calm and caring attitude, even while you rail inside against it all (I can guarantee you’ll rail, weep, get mad… you’re human). Making peace now with the future means accepting now the many losses that will come, so that you won’t be in shock and useless. Be like the musicians on the Titanic. Create beauty, because those who will die and those who survive both need that. Clearly, since I’m writing, you and others survive – actually, life is grand. Making peace with the future also means that you will roll with the good stuff ahead as well.

So here’s some things you’re doing that I’d suggest you keep doing:
Your practice of frugality – getting the maximum pleasure out of every morsel consumed – puts you in a good position to welcome limits as sanity, not deprivation, and to surf the waves of change. Keep teaching your “high joy-to-stuff” strategies. A lot of people listen to you. Give them something real to chew on.
There is nothing wrong in your past – it’s all useful. Appreciate everything you’ve done and see what good can come of it. That goes for your relationships, of course - but I also mean (and I can’t say too much about it) the whole exuberance of the oil-enabled industrial growth model. Stay open to the good in every technology and every innovation because they may be precursors of the future light-structures. Question your assumptions, abandon your Luddite tendencies and ask about everything, “What’s good about you that brought you into being?”
Joe Dominguez used to point out to us (you and me… funny to talk with you this way) that when there was 25% unemployment in the 1930’s Depression, 75% of the people were employed. In other words, use your bright mind to see the opportunities in obstacles. In fact, the future is friendly to people who evolve and evolution tends to favor the braver – those willing to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Pay attention to what is being born, even as you tenderly allow all that is passing away to go.
The future will also be friendly to those who shift from “me” to “we.” Be an opportunist – but on behalf of your community. Which brings me to…

Hint Four: Treat everyone within 50 miles like you love them.
You will need them as your friends. They are the raw materials of a sane future, if you want to be purely pragmatic. They are also your brain; alone you’ll never know enough to survive, but within 50 miles of home is all the intelligence and information you’ll need. If you’re friendly and generous these neighbors will come to trust you. Of course friendliness actually takes guts – not the guts it takes to protest (which you will still do for years), but the guts it takes to risk rejection, care first, forgive, apologize, ask before you attack. In other words, loving the ones you’re with requires tolerance, acceptance and letting go of selfishness. I might also point out that among the 3 million people within 50 miles of you now are probably every friend, lover, dance partner, big thinker or young person you’ll ever need. Go find them. Trade with them. Network with them. Play with them. Help them through hard times. Share meals and homes. Call them to see how their interview or operation went. Ask them to coach you in reaching for your dreams. Even though they aren’t “exotic”, they’re actually interesting, remarkable, smart, kind and skilled. Every one a gem.

Pay attention to “co” words. They are the future. Cooperation. Communion. Community. Collaboration. Communication. Your Conversation Cafes don’t quite fit the word pattern but they are important for people to practice and learn all the other “co” words. Console will also be needed.

Do all you can in pairs and teams. Do work parties and cleaning parties and shedding stuff parties and investing clubs and buying groups and service groups. The era of the Lone Ranger and the Great Hero is passing. Build community. “If you invite them they will come.” Alone you are brittle. Together you are supple.

Hint Five: Pack your personal ark
Just as airlines have a baggage weight limit, to cross the great ocean of time and catastrophe into the future you’ll need to pack carefully. What of your current life must you have in a future governed by “less, local and love?” I can’t tell you what’s coming but I can say this: Scenario A is that you muddle through and your daily life doesn’t change that much in 25 years. The rich get richer and the poor poorer, but life goes on. Scenario B is that catastrophes (and “benestrophes” – overwhelmingly good things) do come. Your weather does change, the seas do rise, energy shortages do occur and the dollar isn’t what it used to be. Select what you want for either case. If it’s A, well, you’ll have the things you need and have shed of a lot of excess baggage. If B, you’ll have the things you need – and need them. Here are some categories to consider:
Seeds: heirloom, open pollinated
Books: reference, how-to and inspirational
Tools: to build things, fix things, make things (good girl, you got a treadle sewing machine in 2007), study things, kill things (a rifle, butcher knife and fishing pole), roll things (wheels save your back and feet)
Clothes: warm, durable, layers, good shoes, glitter for parties
Furniture: durable, comfortable, multi-purpose
Household: durable. Really useful things with cords are okay (we’ve never been without that blender), but hand tools will be needed… like wire whisks and wooden spoons and good chopping knives.
Health care: stock up on and freeze must-have prescription drugs, buy basic medical books. You’ll be surprised at how little you pop in your mouth is still needed. Remember what Norman Cousins said, “85% of all illness is self-limiting,” - and for the rest, I’d say that painkillers and antibiotics are heaven’s gift to the creaky.
Beauty: brushes and combs. Keep all those scarves and earrings (and a coupla lipsticks) to feel pretty, which is water for the soul.
Energy: batteries, yes - but everyone should have one back-up solar panel and/or hand- crank generator for communications technology. Get a solar cooker. Insulate whatever you live in. Double-pane windows. Use the last hours of ancient sunlight (Thom Hartmann’s name for oil) to create a low-energy environment for the future.

You get the drift. Buy and keep what will last. Buy and keep what has multiple uses (like a knife and pot rather than a Cuisinart and electric rice cooker). You’re not packing a real Conestoga Wagon so you can keep everything you have now if you want. Remember your old Your Money or Your Life idea of enoughness? Not just survival. Not just adequate. Truly rich in everything from basics to luxuries, but nothing in excess. Shed the surplus early and often. Scenarios A and B both favor living lightly.

Hint Six: Make yourself useful
Head’s up. A local future belongs to the person who makes herself truly useful to real people, not to the one who can market some useless gadget to unsuspecting consumers. You’ll find it hard to trade your knack for inspiring others for bicycle repair, but don’t worry. If you can make people laugh, you’ll always be taken care of. Hone all people skills (see Hint Four above). The future needs facilitators, negotiators, re-framers, therapists, counselors – anyone with patience in the face of human suffering. The future also needs: handymen, emergency management specialists, nurses, gardeners, inventers, record keepers, geeks and techies of every ilk, musicians, athletes, mechanics, engineers, cooks, team players, canning, inventers, teachers, midwives, writers, body workers, artists, project managers, inventers, story tellers, hunters and fishermen, builders, farmers, inventers, designers of every sort imaginable, healers of every sort imaginable, pathologists, emergency medical technicians, inventers. There’s no lack of good work here in the future.

I do hope this all gets through. The censors may zap anything I say that gives you too much information. But here’s what I can tell you about now. The birds are singing. The children are healthy. They don’t blame us for our mistakes – we now know for certain that our generation did our best with what we had and what we knew. This new generation understands that blame is toxic and they simply don’t do it. It makes them seem like angels, really. They know they are making the future – and that’s what gives meaning to life. They are actually watching over you now. Yes, we in the future travel in time to care for you. We do our best to help without interfering. You are loved. All of you. Have courage. Keep going. It’s working out.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Talks and Teleclasses

I'm excited again about teaching. The new content is based in the Your Money or Your Life approach (a transformational systems perspective on resource flow... to be brief and obscure) but reflects the wisdom of years (five years and lots of challenge and change). Here's the current assortment but be sure to check for the latest.
  • September 1 – Sounds True releases Vicki’s new 2-CD set, a fresh expression of Your Money or Your Life.

  • September 23Money in the ecology of transformation — California Institute of Integral Studies, 1453 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, 7-9 PM

  • September 24 - Transition – but how?; Insights and Advice from seasoned sustainability activist, Vicki Robin, Petaluma Community Center, 320 North McDowell Blvd, Petaluma, CA 94954, 7-9 PM

  • September 30Your Money or Your Life, Bellevue Regional Library, 1111 110th Ave N, Bellevue, WA, 7-9 PM

  • October 1 – Your Money or Your Life, Covington Library, 27100 164th Ave SE, Covington, WA, 7-9 PM

  • October 20-22 – attend Vicki and Monique’s 3-day workshop near Toronto at Sugar Ridge Retreat Center.
⇒ Join Vicki’s new tele-class based on Your Money or Your Life.

Two Free Introductory Classes:

Tuesday September 15 at 5:15PM Pacific Time. Click here to save your “seat”
Saturday September 19 at 8:00 AM Pacific Time. Click here to save your “seat”

About turning 64

I forgot to include whoever reads this blog in my reflections about turning 64 on July 6. Here's the email essay:

Hello friends,

I’m popping in to reflect with you a little about my turning 64 soon (not what I thought it would be when I was 24), and to say there’s room still at my June 12-14 Rowe, MA workshop, Living a Life you Love with the Money you Have. These two topics actually fit together – read on, hang in and you’ll see how.

Yes I am turning 64 in a month, but not in the Beatles way. I’m not losing my hair. I can feed myself. My travels take me more places than a cottage on the Isle of Wight. Yes I’m handy mending fuses and gardening… but also singing, dancing, doing improv theater and serving up lectures about money AND life. I know that having lasted to 64, I’m statistically likely to have another 15 or 20 years in me, barring any more cancer. I know that as an educated Boomer I’ve had one of the most privileged lives of any human of all time – that generations after me may not have as much stuff or as long a life or as strong a sense that the world is their oyster.

I wake up every day saying “Life is good” just because it is. I have plenty of what every social scientist says makes life good: friends and relations, community, health, beautiful surroundings, useful work to do, and enough provisions to feel secure.

So with all this privilege and good fortune, with a truly long and happy life behind me and perhaps another 20 years ahead, what’s next? Two generations ago “next” at 64 was decline and death, with maybe a little dementia phase thrown in. But my cohort has all our wits about us and even if Social Security didn’t seem like a mirage and even if their investments hadn’t dropped 30% most of my friends would not be “retiring”. We’re not getting a Lazy-Boy and TV clicker and calling it quits on active life. We’re not abandoning productive work. Maybe they called these “the golden years” because the Boomers cleverly took all the gold and are leaving the dross to future generations – but my pals are not like that.

True, we actually don’t have the energy, drive or knees of 30 year-olds which takes some adjustment. True I’ve had to say good bye to a wasp waist and a swan neck. But there’s a secret about getting older that I’m just getting the hang of. Letting go gets sweeter and sweeter. The wisdom I struggled to attain in my 30s seems available without struggle now. The ego that stuck to me like fly paper in my 30s has lost a lot of its glue. When I seek understanding, I have enough adversity and achievement behind me to make an educated guess at truth. I know I don’t have forever, and that gives focus and sobriety to my days, but also more real joy.

As many of you know, I’ve just passed my 5-years-since-diagnosis marker. When I hit the cancer wall five years ago, the outward expanding trajectory of my life did a U turn and I headed within to heal and change. I’m now well and well established in a new life so ready or not, the cocoon is opening. The book tour for the reissue of Your Money or Your Life showed me that my public speaking chops still work. Maybe in one of my surgeries my funny bone got directly hooked to my jawbone because my audiences and I laughed our heads off. Here’s what an attendee in Atlanta said:

Vicki, your talk last night was brilliant; we have not had so much fun in years and any speaker who can teach “money lessons” in the midst of the current economic woes AND have her audience laughing deserves praise – and attention!

Laughter actually seems as crucial as thrift to making it through these times. It is also crucial to me. If I have about 7000 days left, I do want to enjoy every minute, whether watching the sunset or fielding questions from people at a lecture.

Not only are my Your Money or Your Life presentations funnier, they dare to go deeper than ever before, organizing themselves around three core questions rather than nine practical steps. I love engaging with these questions. They are simple yet endless, short but revealing more aspects of the truth over time.

1. What is money – really? I digging down to see what’s behind our irrational money behavior. We discover our money personalities and fixations. The cultural norms and messages that will not bend easily to new insights. The structures of the money, banking and financial systems that are rooted in a fundamental insanity – that we can sustain growth on a finite planet. Cracking this open liberates us to reshape our money lives and also to defrock the Emperor Money so he has less power over us, our children and the natural world.

2. How much is enough – really? While the question sounds like a rebuke for excess it really is an invitation to choose from a core of satisfaction rather than a state of distraction. Enough isn’t really a limit. It’s an alive relationship with the world of form, both shaping it and being shaped by it. It’s a place of intimacy with reality.

3. What makes us happy – really? The Dalai Lama has made it safe for the Puritans in us all to say that the purpose of life is to be happy. Content. Satisfied. Peaceful. The search for happiness can shift from self-indulgence to self inquiry. Really, in the presence of what have I experienced deep and lasting joy? How can I direct all of my life energy towards that aliveness and have my financial life support rather than abort this lightness of being?

These are the questions I hope to raise as I travel and speak, and to approach them both inspirationally and practically so we can be free of confusion and empowered to pursue our passions unencumbered by the bear traps and booby prizes our culture sets on our course to direct us to open our wallets and shut our mouths. I’d be happy to bring all of this – spirit and message both – to groups and communities and universities and conferences. My shingle is once more out.

So there you have my take on 64 – at least how I am as I inch up on it. In celebration a group of friends is going to march with me in the 4th of July parade to the squeezebox playing “When I’m 64”. We’re costuming up to show what we each think getting older, wiser or more foolish looks like. If you can’t be there, send me a word picture of what 64 is to you. Or as the Bards say:

Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, (NOT) Wasting Away.

Now you can see how 64 and the Rowe workshop next weekend fit together. Rowe is my first post book tour teaching opportunity. Monique Tilford, my coauthor, and I are going to give it our all. I hope the Universe gets that I’ve changed my order from “leave me alone, I’m sick” to “Howdy.” If you are in the vicinity of Western MA and can come over, great! Rowe is simply a beautiful place to spend a weekend eating good food and meeting great people. If not, please do send this on to friends and support us in launching a new season of enlivening people with our words.

Love to all



Beatles When I'm 64 Lyrics:

When I get older, losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a Valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?

If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oooo
You'll be older too, (ah ah ah ah ah)
And if you say the word,
I could stay with you.

I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings, go for a ride.

Doing the garden, digging the weeds,
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage
In the Isle of Wight, if it's not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee:
Vera, Chuck, and Dave

Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, Wasting Away.

Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Your Money or Your Life rides again

Your Money or Your Life has long been due for a revision - weeding out and/or replacing old stats and stories, tips and assertions. I undertook this task starting in January, unaware that in August as I put on the finishing touches, the dominoes of the financial system would start to fall and that my publisher, Penguin, would want the book out by December. It's in bookstores December 10 and I'll be on tour in January. My old co-author of course is Joe Dominguez, but my new one -the one who went over every word with me, checked every stat, egged me on - is long-time sustainable consumption leader Monique Tilford. Look for her on the East Coast and me on the West Coast, along with the financial planner who helped us redo the investing chapter, Mark Zaifman. On you can find the tour schedule, our blogs and videos, the chapters from the prior edition that are now significantly different (in case you want to go back to the original), an excellent summary of the book and a link to the 9-step resources developed the non profit - the New Road Map Foundation - that Joe and I and friends cofounded in 1984.

Ground Hog Day - Take Two

On February 2, so legend goes, the Ground Hog pokes his up his head after a long winters' nap. If it's sunny, he sees his shadow and it scares him so much he goes back to sleep for 6 weeks.

The movie by that name is a great spiritual teaching tale. A world weary reporter, sent to report on a hick town celebration of Ground Hog Day, discovers that he wakes up again and again on the same day - there is no tomorrow. Nothing he can do can move time forward and he becomes more and more reckless, knowing there will be no consequences as there is no future. Only when he actually gets over himself and becomes a loving human being does the clock start ticking forward again.

Hmm. And what does this have to do with me? I'm a bit shocked after a long snooze about the shadow I cast - and I'm looking for a way to not get stuck in my reactions. Read on...

As Your Money or Your Life hits the bookstores and nearly the top 100 bestseller list on Amazon - and as I become more active in support of it (blogging, website, emails) - I'm visibly reemerging from my 5-year 'sleep' (to heal my body and life). More light is shining on me. Several times in the last month or so I've winced at how my words and work are being picked up by others. More than once something I considered "mine" - words, website, name even - is used by someone without request or attribution. Part of me wants to say, "Hey, wait a minute, that's mine" and another part knows that no words or ideas are mine - they are just my unique re-mix of language and thought honed over thousands of years by my ancestors.

I pondered this. When is it wise to defend what is mine, and when is it wise to just let it go?

My work on freedom and limits helped a lot. Freedom, I saw over years of thought, is only possible in the realm of spirit. Only in spirit (or in love) can we occupy the same space at the same time with another - happily. The rest of the time we're in the everyday material world. Here, everything that exists has a boundary. As Meg Wheatley said in a Simpler Way, everything that exists has a purpose, an identity and a boundary. To define anything - a cell, a relationship, a book - you need to say where it begins and ends. You say what it is by what it isn't. Like a girl's club means "no boys allowed". If boys are allowed into the girl's club, well it loses its identity - and purpose - and value.

If I put my name on a combination of words and ideas, that makes them in some way part of my identity. If someone sees my name on the outside of something, they know there will be a particular kind of value inside. I don't want to be selfish or stingy - but if my name is to mean anything, if my words are to carry value, if my special honing of ideas are to carry weight, there needs to be some patrolling of whether others have taken them as their own. No?

I brought this dilemma with a fellow writer. He said when he was younger and his ideas were lifted without attribution he felt flattered. People more famous than him thought his stuff was smart enough to put it in their own work. After he got older, though, it bothered him that things he'd written were reworked by others who then put their names on it without giving credit.

"And now?" I asked, thinking I'd find a clue to being more spacious about my work being taken without permission or citing source.

"It still bothers me," he said. He went on to talk about an early book (see I forget the name) about the Internet where the author talked about the etiquette of the net is "hyperlinking" - that if you lift something from another site you hyperlink to acknowledge your source and give your reader a chance to see beneath the surface to those who inspired and informed you.

Both these ideas - boundary and hyperlink - are about respect. Understanding where you end and another begins, and having good manners - courtesy - at the meeting ground. In fact, life IS about relationship – and so it’s about politely, firmly, lovingly and incessantly negotiating boundaries. The Ten Commandments are largely about knowing who owns what and respecting that.

When I first heard a Native American introduce himself I was puzzled by his recitation of tribe, clan, parents. My hyper-individualistic US self wondered why they all hadn't liberated themselves from their past. Over time this recitation grew on me though. I saw that they had something I'd lost before I was born - a sense of belonging to a people and a place. About a decade ago I spent a year doing weekly Lakota sweat lodges and sank deeper into a worldview that calls on ancestors and spirits to guide, protect and defend the living. And of course just by getting older I've lost some of the arrogance of thinking of myself as having made/remade/invented myself.

Through honoring their source, the native people's make themselves stronger, not weaker. They can call on the power of their ancestors to see them through. They know they are part of a living web of relations - and walk always with respect. They understand the hoop of life, that all things are connected. Respect for the other is how they walk.

So I now see that honoring source, hyperlinking, respecting boundaries is part of what keeps the wholeness of all life in balance through time and space. Ignoring these linkages, taking as one's own what come from the web of life, unbalances, disturbs and trivializes life. Value is held and preserved and increased by a proper boundary just like wine or cheese, sealed off from the outside, improves over time.

I want to be honored - asked permission and acknowledged - because that wince at my words or name or ideas being taken without attribution is there to defend the integrity of life - not just my sorry ass ego.

So how does this work in the world of the web where ideas and text and words fly around like drops in an ocean, losing source as soon as they are released? I don't know. At this level I just need to "get over it" when I see bits of "me" zip by with someone else's name on it. That's life now. If it matters to me, I need to politely write the person/website and say, "If you got that from me, would you be willing to link to my... website, book, blog. Thanks - and I'm glad you liked what I said enough to copy it." I need to let others know what feels like good manners to me. I need to ask for a hyperlink.

If it cuts deeper - if people take my name or work and use it in a way that is antithetical to my intent - I need to defend that boundary with even more vigor - but no less inner ease.

And as I go through life - googling to supplement my addled brain - I need to also hyperlink, honor source. If I don't then I trivialize my own thought and I make the whole web of life and knowledge more superficial. I act as if I am self-made. I disconnect with the wisdom of my elders and others. I make the world more lonely and flat.

As an originator of many things, I am happy when one of my creations takes off and becomes a source for others. Soon enough the hyperlink is lost - and others put their own stamp on it for so long that it becomes truly theirs. My only hope is that I launch my ideas with such clarity, integrity and love that some perfume of that intention lingers even through many iterations. All signals fade eventually, though scraps of every utterance reverberate through all time and space. I know that now, as I reemerge from my tunnel and see the light again, others will again notice, imitate, admire, align with, rebel against and more whatever I put out into the public domain. If I react, I'm stuck in Ground Hog Day until I remember love, remember to soften and share and get over myself.

At the same time, I'll be a stand for honoring source - in my own work and with people who work with me. We all need to be way more humble about what we've actually really really originated as well as a lot more clear about where our boundaries are and how we want others to treat us.

Footnotes for this set of thoughts -- I thank Tad Hargrave and Marilyn Daniels from inspiring these thoughts, Leif Utne, Victoria Castle and Helen Gabel for listening to me chew on them endlessly, Suzanne Fageol for being a stickler on footnotes in the new edition of YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE and also my old webmaster for presenting me with the challenge of wondering what is mine at all. And of course everyone else... this could get ridiculous, but I feel far stronger naming those who've been my teacher than acting like I did it all by myself.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Keeping Quiet - A poem for this time of year

This is my Christmas message for 2008. I've gotten so much beautiful response that I decided to post it here for anyone and everyone to find. I'm even finding others have picked up this Neruda poem for their own season message in emails and on websites. May his words keep moving and moving - around the world and in our hearts.

December 20, 2008

Dear friends around the world,
I'm snowed in, and savoring the quiet and beauty. With all the madness of shopping and emails and busy-ness, I offer as my holiday greeting an invitation to pause as Pablo Neruda suggests in the poem below.
I'll be busy myself soon enough. With the reissue of Your Money or Your Life (see the site), I'll be on tour in January and am already getting audiences and reporters asking me what to do about the unfolding economic crisis. While the questions are looking for simple, quick fixes this is a problem decades in the making and I can think of no better tonic right now than, as Neruda says, to keep quiet. Settle down. Settle in.
As with any trauma, we need to stop, feel the impact, tell the story to friends, know we are alive and safe, trace how we got there and if there was some lie or blindness involved -- and choose again, choose anew.
Liam Moriarty posed these "what can we do questions" to me last week in a local NPR interview. Click to listen. It's short and I think it carries the spirit I carry now.
With deep wishes to each of you for a wonderful season of quiet and a richly loving New Year,
Vicki Robin
Co-author, Your Money or Your Life
Box 1501,
Langley, WA 98260
Business Phone: 206.931.8162
Home (personal calls only): 360.221.2251
Keeping Quiet - A Callarse
Pablo Neruda
(Translation from Peaceful Rivers)

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

This one time upon the earth,
let's not speak any language,
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.

The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.

What I want shouldn't be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.

If we weren't unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,

if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.

Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I'll go.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Kurt's Car Fast

My goad for doing the airplane fast from thanksgiving 07-08 was Kurt Hoelting, a local fisherman and meditation teacher who announced his commitment to not getting into a car for 2008 and not traveling more than 100 Km from home. His blog is

I just went to a solstice celebration which completed his year. It was at a beautiful retreat center hall on Whidbey Island. So much snow had fallin in the week before that most events were cancelled, but Kurt persevered and so did we - 70 or more of us showed up for him, for the inspiration of his year and for our own commitment to stretching beyond comfort and assumptions and into braver ways of living.

He offered the following list of learnings from his year, which involved not just NOT doing cars but hiking and biking and kayaking the beaties of his 60 mile region. His learnings are so like mine i wanted to share them with you:

o If we decide to do something, and if we decide that everything worthy of our love hangs in the balance, its amazing what we’re capable of

o Living without a car is challenging, but completely within our capacity

o Making these changes has been easier than I imagined. I can no longer imagine feeling bored or confined here.

o The benefits of this experiment have exceeded the costs by a country mile

o Staying close to home and actively exploring my home terrain has vastly increased my sense of connection and belonging in this place

o My inner life feels richer and more grounded than it did a year ago

o My sense of connection to my neighbors and gratitude for my community is much stronger

o I’m in better shape physically than I’ve been for years, and I’ve hardly even been to the gym

o The daily act of moving from place to place is lived time now, rather than lost time. I’m not checked out when I’m traveling. I’m much more fully engaged.

o I am far less prone to seasonal depression and feelings of despair about the world. I am more open to the truth of what we face, without being so overwhelmed by it.

o I am much more willing to share my gifts and talents without the burden of feeling that my actions are continually out of alignment with my deepest values and convictions. I have a long ways to go in that re-alignment, but I feel I’ve made an honest start, and I feel very encouraged by that.

o I’m far more hopeful that serious change is possible, that we each have it in us to make real changes on a scale commensurate with the challenges we face.

o I am more willing to take other risks now, and I’m not nearly as afraid of what the future might hold.

· When reality steps forward with ultimatums as large as these, and when we turn toward these truths with curiosity and intelligence rather than fear and denial, then the real adventure begins, and there is no measuring what we are capable of.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Airplane Fast ends

Can you believe it's been a year?

A year of no flying. A year of sticking fairly close to home. A year of settling, grounding, growing roots, growing a bit of moss.

I began the fast because I could no longer pretend that the benefit to the earth, life and the future of my flying was equal to the cost. In other words, I was out of integrity. I was a hypocrite. I was a fat-footed Western Boomer exercising the privilege that comes with being white, educated, American and still somewhat in demand.

I also began the fast because I realized I was now unaware of what needs were being filled by flying, but knowing my identity was somehow tied up in getting up up and away.

I wanted to be down and here. I wanted to know myself without the dazzle of travel. I wanted to belong where I am, be part of someplace and not just a someone, anyplace.

After a few self-conscious months of twitching and itching as the identity of traveler flaked off I stopped completely thinking about what i WASN'T doing and enjoyed ever more the finer things in life. Finer as in seeing finer details of the life I am in - the growing season, the neighbors, the village, the buzzing of the community, the morning light and winter skies, the plays and events. In doing that, I also seemed more settled in myself, seeing deeper in with the surface a bit less roiled. Mind you, "settling down" for a person whose life metaphor is 'on the road' was never appealing, but I had no idea that letting the surface settle would reveal in so much alluring detail the contours of the infinite facets of a single day.

One beautiful long meditation on Orcas Island centered on the classic spiritual question, "Who am I?" The deeper in I went the more I was aware of a self-congratualtory and incessant narrator who is constantly interpreting and evaluating and delightfully chatting and theorizing about my life. I stopped to listen and, like a thief caught red handed, the voice skulked away. In its absence I became aware that I am quite thoroughly a figment of my imagination. That I am nothing, and that nothing is the doorway into being "it all". I became a big motherly surround holding everything within my embrace effortlessly. Who, I asked, do I think is listening to my merry chatter? Who am I trying to impress? For whom am I reshaing through words my raw self into an entertaining persona? For hours I could shuttle back and forth between ecstacy and ego. It became crystal clear that relinquishing ego wasn't good, wasn't virtuous, earned me no brownie points in heaven. Surrendering what isn't real (though entertaining) is the ticket to heaven. What a joke! (of course that voice loves blogging - if you ever read this it has secured it's greatest pleasure... someone listening).

I think who traveled was that voice - the entertainer seeking an audience. I was looking for the echo of myself to know I am somebody. This year has been like a vacation from the demands of the public self so the private self could hang out and have a good time. I'm not fundamentally different, only I am more aware of myself, living at a deeper layer of myself and not so into myself. jeesh. what a joke.

The airplane fast has certainly not been limiting me. Instead it's been limiting a habitual behavior so I could live more in reality. I don't know if the fast did this, but I am more aware, as i appreciate life's finer things, that I am now in the autumn years. I've definitely rounded a bend. Cancer whipped me into the curve and in this year - the fifth since diagnosis - I've slowed enough to make it around the bend. The tasks of the Autumn years are so different and delicious. In my Summer I couldn't imagine how what interests me now would be any fun. What's here, though, is a concentration of the juice of my life, a simmering to blend the flavors of all the many adventures, an asking, "What is this really that I've been through? What are the tasks now? What does it now seem I landed here to learn and have I learned it? What do I do, if anything, with all I've accumulated?" I call myself a "baby elder" because I sense I'm in preparation for another phase and quite awkward in this new skin.

This year has, as well, been productive and challenging. I took on to rewrite Your Money or Your Life and helped produce the second global conversation week and found myself, by the end of the Summer, on a fast track to being out in the world again with the update arriving just as the market finally lost its footing and began to tumble. Looks like my five years of cancer and healing, my five years of getting planted and rooted in self and community, my five years of becoming a thinking feeling body rather than a head with something hanging off it, my five years of fitting back in to life after a big wild ride out there as a 'player' - those years are done and i'm again saddling up and riding out.

My year just ended with a flight at the end of November (last flight was November 2007) to SF to, in part, meet with my colleagues on this new edition of Your Money or Your Life. And in January I'm on the road for real speaking in Denver, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Portland, Vancouver, San Francisco, Seattle and environs.

It's good to belong where you are before being somewhere else - and now i'm ready.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Manifesto for this moment in time

I just rediscovered this writing from at least 5 years ago, written in the context of the work of the Turning Tide Coalition, a think/feel tank of social innovators wanting to address the complex interconnected challenges and opportunities of our time. We asked "What is the intersection of utter necessity (what we must do to survive), new possibility (what we can do now that we couldn't before) and human longing (what people would do in an instant if they only knew how)? Out of our work came many spin offs, including the Conversation Cafes, several books by other members and the Pachamama Alliance's Symposium. I discovered that the Symposium is using this "manifesto" I drafted in their material.

First Draft of a Manifesto For Our Times

By Vicki Robin

You’ve heard the bad news. Yes, it’s bad. Everywhere you look, problems are multiplying faster than technology can wipe them up, faster than laws can contain them, faster than wisdom can put them in perspective. Everyday people – you and me – feel disconnected and powerless. But there’s good news. We’re a healthy species. We’re a young species. We’re designed for success. And every single one of us is a member of the species, so we all have the capacity to think and feel and experiment our way into a future that’s healthy for all life. Here are some principles you can count on.

1. We’re not dumb. Ask anyone what the biggest challenges facing the world are in the next decade and you’ll get the same list. We know what’s wrong. We even know a bit of what “right” would look like. It’s a child’s vision of happiness: sunshine, family, flowers, friends, good stuff to do. The problem seems to be a sense of powerlessness. We’re up against a wall. There is no door. We want to do what’s right but every day we contribute to what’s wrong by doing what we must – driving our cars, working for large corporations, buying food grown with poisons, sending our kids to inadequate schools, watching stupid, violent TV programs to numb out. There must be a way to put into practice what we want to be real, what we know to be right. Therefore, we are people committed to creating a door in the wall and opening it so that everyone can have a decent life.

2. We are not greedy. We are a generous species, given half a chance. Once we know we have enough and feel secure that it won’t be taken away (which is totally possible in the world as it is), simple playground fairness tells us we won’t ever be really happy until everyone has enough. Physical appetite teaches us that over-consuming leads to belly aches. You can’t get enough of what you don’t really want. Once you have enough to meet your real and perceived needs, you can liberate yourself from building personal material security and devote yourself to assuring the collective material security for all life. In this context, barter, sharing, gifting, generosity all make sense and are a source of real wealth. Therefore, we are people who pledge to understand and have compassion for our needs, to fill them wisely and to devote the ample overflow of intelligence, care, attention, creativity, love and inventiveness to contributing to the health, sanity and sustainability of life on earth.

3. Good work and good works. We’re a helpful bunch. We like to work (but not all the time, for Heaven’s sakes!). The purpose of work is not just to make money. CEO’s know that. Child care workers know that. Unpaid volunteers know that. We work to learn, to participate in the work of the world, to challenge ourselves, to pass the time, to get out and meet people, to prove ourselves, to play. Therefore, we are people who pledge ourselves, to the best of our ability, to work for the good of the world while assuring our own well-being and that we meet our financial obligations.

4. Success. We are not the “best” species, but we are a wonderful species – full of creativity, compassion, tenacity and devotion. The fact that we are, in this moment, contributing to a major die-off of other species and degradation of the biosphere isn’t proof that we are bad. It shows that we are immature and need to grow up. The young of any species must learn the consequences of their actions. As a young species, our task is to face the dark side of our expansiveness and become collectively as wise as our great wise ones: Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, and Confucius – to name just a few. We are people who pledge ourselves to face our errors, to correct our errors and to become wise and generous companions to other people, cultures and species.

5. We are the Natural World – we recognize that the economy is embedded in the natural world, not vice versa. We recognize that “economy” originally meant “household management”. Through the economy, we fill our needs. We launched the Industrial Revolution to win our “battle with nature.” Nature, to some, seemed cruel and unpredictable. The Industrial Revolution (run by manufacturers and machines), and later the consumer economy (run by the current priests, economists), ironed out so many wrinkles so well that we’ve forgotten that our survival DOES depend on a healthy ecosystem. We need clean air, clean water, rich soil, biodiversity, and the web of life. If we treat the natural world like a bottomless cookie jar and a vast sewer system, WE will grow ill. If we eat the seed corn, we won’t have crops in future years. If we tear the siding off our house to feed the wood stove, eventually we won’t have a home. Therefore, we are people who pledge to discover how to achieve real fulfillment of every real need while preserving the integrity of our home, the natural world.

6. Connection. Everything is hitched to everything else. We separate things to control them, but our hearts know that life is a seamless whole. Through the scientific method, we learned to solve one problem at a time. But New Science teaches that life is a complex web, not a simple machine. This reflects our current reality; our ingenuity, together with liberalized trade and sophisticated technology, can create new solutions and therefore new problems at unimaginable speed. Indeed, our imaginations are exhausted. We can barely cope. So we leave the future to “those in the know.” Instead of being overwhelmed, however, we can learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. We can hold contradictory information in our awareness without having to settle on one thing. We can hold six world problems and 12 world solutions in our awareness and watch new patterns form. We can, as groups, recapture the innocence of fearing and hoping and thinking together about everything that troubles us. Therefore, we are people who pledge to grow our capacity to simultaneously think and feel about the state of our world without going numb, to engage in seeking solutions with the joy of a young child feeding ducks by a pond, to absorb the pain of one another’s ignorance and yearning, and to shift from hopelessness to possibility as our ground of being.

7. Spirit. We are a species who creates value and meaning through stories. Who can contemplate the 15 billion year unfolding of our universe without an overwhelming sense of awe? Or the mysterious emergence of life, the miracle of a nurturing earth and the unpredictable capacity for love of our species? Whatever other species make of this journey through time and evolution, humans everywhere have invented and collected tales, true and mythic, to help us understand this mysterious gift we participate in. It’s called religion. It’s called spirit. It’s called “the gods.” Whatever name we use, the truth is the same. We have values, things we hold dear, hold sacred. We feel shame and remorse when we violate our own truths. We worship. We pray. This is as true about humanity as our biophysiology, our institutions and laws, our material creations. Therefore, we are people who acknowledge our humility, who will incorporate our reverence along with our passion and intelligence in our work of healing the world.

8. Freedom. We are the species that can change its mind; we have the capacity to choose. Pretty awesome! The only catch is that if we choose only our own good to the exclusion of the good of others, the system (be it democracy or the natural world) stops working. So, it turns out we are free to choose the high road or the low road, what’s good for all or just good for us. Could we choose to amend the rules of the game to create a society that values people over profits, life over pollution, mutual care over guns and prisons, vision over dysfunction? Can we use our freedom to dream a new dream for all of life? Therefore, we are people who will claim our freedom to recreate the world in the image and likeness of health, sanity, diversity, joy, sufficiency-for-all, connection, spirit and wisdom for all.

9. Courage. Deep heart, passionate action on behalf of ideals. We have what it takes. We can face our own shadow. We can grieve and release our past, acknowledge our shortcomings, rely on one another as an expression of strength. We are not a nation or planet of sheep, satisfied to be spoon fed mental pap in exchange for security. We rise to the occasion. And this moment in time is one helluva occasion. Therefore, we are people who act on our best information and intuition on behalf of the evolution of life.

10. We have a future. Our children, grandchildren and many generations to come will continue to be the crew of Spaceship Earth. Evolution isn’t over. There is much to discover, within and without. We can’t do it in one generation. We will, for better or worse, pass on unfinished business to the next generations. We are wayfarers. Campers in an ancient and ongoing forest, both natural and human-made. Therefore, we are people committed to leaving this earth in better shape than we found it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Did I say I was prescient?

I undertook my fast when a barrel of oil was about $80. I did it when no one but the peak oil cognoscenti were anticipating a massive shift in air travel. All year, though, the reasons for not flying have sunk from a noble experiment, a spiritual exercise, an eco-lenten public virtue to just plain smart. Read this from the NYTimes:

May 21, 2008

Earlier this decade, city officials in Hagerstown, Md., started making the case to build a longer runway at their airport to lure service by regional jets, instead of the turboprop planes that provided its only flights.

Several years and $61.4 million later, the city opened its concrete welcome mat, a new 7,000 foot runway, last November — two months after the airport lost scheduled air service altogether.

Despite its costly investment, a dogged marketing effort by local officials and even help from Congress, the airport has had no luck attracting a new carrier, as the industry struggles under soaring fuel prices.

“Could we pick a worse time to go out and get commercial service? Probably not,” said Carolyn Motz, director of the Hagerstown Regional Airport, which had 10 daily flights a decade ago.

The airports have grown quiet in many other communities, too.

Financially strapped airlines are cutting service, and nearly 30 cities across the United States have seen their scheduled service disappear in the last year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Others include New Haven, Conn.; Wilmington, Del.; Lake Havasu City, Ariz.; and Boulder City, Nev.

Over the same period, more than 400 airports, in cities large and small, have seen flight cuts. Over all, the number of scheduled flights in the United States dropped 3 percent in May, or 22,900 fewer flights than in May 2007, according to the Official Airline Guide.

And the service cuts are far from over, as jet fuel prices rise, airlines shut down and companies consider mergers, like the Delta-Northwest deal.

For American travelers, the shift means that they can no longer bank on scheduling flights to reach their destination within a single day, said Robert W. Mann Jr., an industry consultant in Port Washington, N.Y.

“Everybody expects frequent, convenient, high-quality service with great connectivity to the rest of the world,” Mr. Mann said. But given the steep rise in fuel prices, which are up 84.5 percent from a year ago, airlines have to make difficult choices on service.

Fewer passengers are expected to fly this summer, traditionally the peak season for air travel — partly because of the soft economy, of course, but the difficulty of traveling may also be a factor.

The Air Transport Association, an industry trade group, predicts 211.5 million people will fly between June 1 and Aug. 31, down more than 2 million passengers from last year’s record of 213.5 million.

Flights seem to be disappearing by the day.

Last week, Mesa Air Lines, a regional carrier based in Phoenix, said it would shut down Air Midwest, a regional subsidiary, on June 30. The move will eliminate service to 16 small cities in the 10 remaining states where Air Midwest, which had already cut flights, still operated.

Eliminating flights is the latest move by the airlines in a cost-cutting drive that also has led to ticket prices climbing 10 times this year and new fees, from charges for checking extra bags to changing itineraries.

Almost every major carrier, from American Airlines to Delta Air Lines and US Airways, is crossing cities off its list, leaving passengers with fewer choices than a year ago.

Some travelers have no choices, but it is not for lack of trying by city and state officials. After Hagerstown briefly lost its eligibility for a government program called the Essential Air Service last year, Maryland’s Congressional delegation helped win an extension that allowed Hagerstown, as well as Lancaster, Pa., and Brookings, S.D., to remain in the program until Sept. 30.

The Essential Air Service program was created in 1978, when the airline industry was deregulated, to ensure that communities in rural and remote areas would be linked to the nation’s air system.

Under the program, the government provides subsidies of about $100 million a year to the airlines, resulting in service to 102 communities.

But the subsidies have not risen fast enough to cover the jump in jet fuel costs, and passengers have resisted paying higher prices for plane tickets, prompting carriers to pull out of a number of cities, including Hagerstown.

Now, some lawmakers are pushing for more money for the air service program as part of a broader funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration that is before the Senate. The House passed the measure last year.

Even with the longer runway, and the federal subsidy, Hagerstown has not been able to persuade another carrier to take the place of Air Midwest, which discontinued its two daily flights to Pittsburgh last fall.

Ms. Motz says that is now unlikely to happen before the extension expires, given the time an airline needs to start new service. “With airlines going out of business and capacity being reduced, it is very difficult,” she said.

Lacking flights, Hagerstown residents must drive an hour and a half to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, or face even longer trips to Washington’s two airports.

Without passenger service, the airport’s revenue comes primarily from military and private aviation.

“We would love to have service here, especially since there have been millions of dollars in improvements,” said Lewis Metzner, a city council member.

Plattsburgh, N.Y., is also hoping to get more flights. And it has more than just a longer runway — it has a brand new airport, built on a former air force base.

The airport offers three flights a day on a nine-seat Cessna to Boston, via Cape Air, as well as three flights a week to North Carolina on Myrtle Beach DirectAir and four weekly flights to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando on Allegiant, a low-fare carrier.

Plattsburgh had a daily flight to Albany under CommutAir, a commuter carrier linked to Continental Airlines that operated 19-seat aircraft. But CommutAir discontinued service to Plattsburgh last year, before the airport moved to its new location.

Now, the town’s only current connection to a major airline is through Cape Air, which has partnership arrangements with Continental and JetBlue.

Cape Air service is provided under an Essential Air Service contract that gives Cape Air with a subsidy of $650 a flight, or about $73 a passenger for a trip that costs $94 one-way, said Christopher D. Kreig, the airport’s manager.

But the subsidies have not ensured stability. Cape Air is the third airline in a year to hold the contract. After CommutAir pulled out, Big Sky Airlines served Plattsburgh for just seven weeks, leaving in January, when the airline dropped service to East Coast airports.

However, Myrtle Beach and Allegiant came in without government assistance, attracted in part by the airport’s proximity to Canada, which Plattsburgh emphasizes in its marketing campaign.

Mr. Kreig acknowledges the service is an odd mix for Plattsburgh’s passengers.

But Mr. Mann, the industry consultant, sees only one way that small cities like Plattsburgh can attract new business — and it is probably one that passengers will not like. “You can profitably fly small airplanes only if the people on them pay very high prices,” he said.

Mary M. Chapman contributed reporting.