A couple of Saturdays ago (August 31st) my wife and I got up a little early and I started thinking about how to spend that beautiful late-summer day in the San Francisco Bay Area. She had asked me a while back if I've been to Fenton's Creamery in Piedmont, and I told her that I hadn't. So she suggested we go to Fenton's for lunch, and then take a walk around Lake Merritt (Oakland, CA). That idea sounded great, so off we went...
On our way to Piedmont, she was telling me all about Fenton's, and she kept talking about their delicious crab sandwiches, ice-cream, and milkshakes, and as she did, my appetite grew by the minute. Of course, when we got there we ordered a crab sandwich, french fries, and a large vanilla milkshake, and we shared it. It was absolutely delicious! If you're ever in the Oakland/Piedmont area, I really recommend you visit the place...
There are also cute little businesses in the area, including a small book store just a couple of doors down from Fenton's. We walked around, did a little shopping (salami, cheese, bread), and off we went to Lake Merritt, not too far from where we were.
We parked near Lakeside Park (Lakeside Drive, and Grand Avenue), plugged the meter, tightened the shoelaces on our tennis shoes, and off we went for our walk around the lake...
As soon as we crossed the street on our way to the park to start the loop around the lake, I noticed that there was a gathering of mainly young people, many of them wearing flowers in their hair! They were close to the promenade area, with groups assembled in different area, but close to each other. I noticed one group was building some kind of artwork using plants, leaves, and flowers.
Anyways, I was intrigued by the whole scenery and asked my wife if she would not mind if we hanged out for a little bit to see what these young people were doing--what they were about--before we took our walk. She said, "Sure, this looks very interesting."
I noticed there was a table with some literature, an email newsletter sign up sheet, and two young men standing by, so I walked up to them and asked them about what was going on... First I talked to Jeff. The first thing I noticed was how relaxed, and peaceful, and friendly he was. And so he told me about PLACE (People Linking Art, Community & Ecology):
We foster sustainable living practices through art, community, and ecology. We do this by way of educational workshops and exhibits, outreach programs, partnerships, events, and public placemaking.Another young man, Gerardo, was standing close by and came over to introduce himself, and told me about Project Nuevo Mundo.
PLACE is a public-serving, experiential learning center that showcases and advocates for urban homesteading, community, resiliency, social justice and artistic expression.
Project Nuevo Mundo is a platform that connects People and Project Centers, encouraging resource sharing on the web and on the ground to catalyze planetary regeneration and individual transformation.I could not helped but to notice how genuine these young people were, how helpful, how friendly, how humble, how accepting. We felt welcome immediately. I looked around and felt some kind of positive energy... For some reason I started thinking about the book "The Celestine Prophesy," and an audiobook meditation I've listened to sometimes when I take my walks. It's about taking a walk at the beach, and seeing a group of people, and walking towards them and once we all meet we feel we've known each other for a long time and you feel a very positive energy. It's a beautiful meditation.
Jeff (left) and Gerardo (right)
Another word that came to mind was serendipity. It's like this encounter was meant to happen, a la "Celestine Prophesy."
Now, mind you, how does an agnostic kind of guy starts thinking about all these stuff, I can't explain... But there I was, and those were my thoughts.
Another thing that came to mind during that experience was that I've been giving these ideas about sustainable living, about trying to find ways to slowly find alternatives to the hyper-consumerist ethos, and most of all, about trying to break free from the control supra-national corporations have over our lives a lot of thought (here, here).
So it was great to see these young people actually doing these things, having a very clear understanding about how a corporate-dominated government negatively affects society, and actually doing something constructive about it; something peaceful, and beautiful, in unity, in friendship, in brotherhood. It was powerful!
For the first time I learned about what a MANDALA was. There was this energetic lady named Veronica, a Mandala Ritual Artists. There were people who had walked up to where we were and just started helping build this beautiful piece of natural art...
Timeless, divine and eternal, the Earth Peace Mandala is inspired by Spirit. The Spirit in each of us that gives rise to our own beauty. With this we can weave a life full of miracles for all.
Made of earth elements, the Earth Peace Mandalas become a sacred dedication to all of life and gives in to the creative expression we all possess. Participating in it's creation is an invitation to celebrate life and beauty and at the same time is a prayer for Planetary Healing.
And then it was time for the group meditation, somebody announced... So my wife and I walked away from the MANDALA, and watch a fairly large group of people (mostly young, but also middle-age) lay down on the grass, while this young man led everybody into a meditation that included the soft sounds of a flute, and drums (ever so softly).
Again, I'm not a religious person, and when I do a little meditation is kind of amateurish, but being there at that moment, with these people, during a perfect and sunny summer day in Oakland, was like some kind of religious experience.
It was the purity of it all; the friendliness; the immediate embrace from the group... And their awareness about not only the challenges we face under the type of system live under, but about changing the narrative, expanding their understanding about what is possible.
And so in that respect, I felt like I was actually living the meditation I've heard so many times during my walks.
And when Veronica invited people to form a circle around the MANDALA, total strangers just walked up, and held hands together...
Other thoughts came to mind. I was thinking about the native cultures that had been here for hundreds of years; about their way of living; about how they may had lived in harmony with mother nature.
And finally I was thinking about why this system is designed to discourage that type of wholesomeness, that type of unity, that type of ethos that focuses on sustainable living and harmony instead of rampant consumerism and individualism.
Earlier today I read a diary that perfectly summarized the brutality of our current system: America - You've been Bananafied!
When one reads the comments, it's almost impossible not to feel empathy for many of the people who after having done everything they were supposed to do in life, as we've been told over and over, they've ended up feeling defeated, without too much hope for a better future for them and their children.
It doesn't have to be like this. The only reason it is, is because we've come to believe that there isn't any other plausible alternative; we've come to believe the false choices the system wants us to believe. We can break free, and it all starts by thinking differently, by uniting in solidarity, and by understanding the true nature of the system, and why it is designed to discourage the type of unity and solidarity we would need in order to defeat it.
I encourage you to watch this video and listen to what Chris Hedges suggest we do...
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