Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Trip to Ganeshpuri, India

Meet Nityanda.

The shiniest jewel of my recent India adventure was my stealthy pilgrimage to Ganeshpuri, a small jungle village about 90-minutes north of Mumbai. I went to see the former home of Nityananda who is one of my greatest spiritual teachers; I've felt his presence around me for years, and his teachings just make sense to me. Nityananda built his last ashram there and took mahasamadhi (or mystically kicked the bucket) in 1961. This place has been on my to-do list for about 9 years!  Check that one off!

But you need some back-story before I share the sweetness from that day. I will share my own experience of Nityananda, rather than make a poor attempt at retelling people's accounts of his mysterious nature.

In April of 2006, I was en route to Cambodia for a job. I went to interview survivors of the Khmer Rouge and to write about sex trafficking and different community development projects in the tribal countryside. I went only four months after a two-year living stint in Kabul. I was operating on emotional fumes, and the physical/post traumatic burnout that comes with living in a war zone; it's because of this that I doubted my decision to go. Could I really handle another adventure?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Radio Interview With Dr. Meg Blackburn Losey

Click here if you'd like to listen to my interview from last night on Dr. Meg Blackburn Losey's radio show Cosmic Particles. Meg is wonderful and I'm grateful that I had the chance to connect with such a spiritually aware woman. You can visit her site if you're interested in following her weekly show on things of all spiritual topics.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Back From India

(So long, and thanks for all the fish! "Fish?!?" you say! This could be fish from anywhere in the world, but I must use it to represent my trip to India. I stayed in an ocean town and ate a lot of fish while I was there. I smelled a lot of fish, often times when I didn't want to. People kept talking to me about fish. I even met some fishy people. It was a theme that I'm still deciphering) 

I'm fresh off the plane from India. Yep, I was out of the country for most of November. I wasn't a good pilgrim--I traded in my Thanksgiving Turkey for curried chicken and basmati rice. I haven't been home for too long, and most of you are like, "Whaaa???? You didn't tell me you were going to India!" Well, that's usual for this butterfly spirit. I'm always going on a surprise adventure at the last minute. I had no idea that I was going to India until one week before, back in early November of this year. My friend and filmmaking partner Peter Bussian asked me to represent the film we're working on--Scarlet Poppy--at something called the Indian Film Bazaar in Goa, India. 

A friend recently said to me, "Your life sounds so exciting, but I couldn't stand being you..."

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Images of India, 2011

I spent the end of 2011 in India, representing a film that I'm producing called Scarlet Poppy. It was accepted into the Indian Film Bazaar in Goa, India. These pictures are from my trip. So much to say, too jet lagged to write.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blow My Mind, Again!!!

Two weeks ago I took this photo below--I was in Silver Lake, Los Angeles on a butterfly business trip. It's was divine timing and perfect lighting for this photo. I was so happy, especially because photographing graffiti is one of my hobbies. Days later, I went to my friend's house in Mendocino California. I walked past her office, and this photo below was on her computer screen. And yes, "Blow My Mind" is exactly what happened to me. I asked her how she got it, and she said it was being spread around the Internet-she didn't know it was my photo. :-) HA HA HA :-) I love it! Pure synchronicity reflecting and telling me "Yes lady, you are on your path. Keep flapping those butterfly wings." I love confirmations in the material world, especially when it comes in the form of spreading beautiful images along the way. So have you seen this photo running around the Internet lately? ;-)

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Reading the Mise-En-Scene of My Life: Film Geeks & Mystics Are Welcome

My life is like a movie. No, really--it is. And I'm sure you agree with me if you've been following the stories of this blog. One of my favorite activities in my life movie is to be highly aware of my surroundings. How does it all look? What is my environment trying to tell me? How do the colors and arrangement of objects effect and reflect my being? Some may call this feng shui--especially when someone decorates their home. Others may call it awareness or the universal mirror because you can always, somehow, see yourself in the world and the people you attract.

Now I want to talk about this thing called Mise-En-Scene that I learned about last year in my film appreciation class. And yes, this will all tie together in a pretty little bow at the end. Brace yourself...

"Mise-en-scène (French pronunciation: [mizɑ̃sɛn] "placing on stage") is an expression used to describe the design aspects of a theatre or film production, which essentially means "visual theme" or "telling a story"—both in visually artful ways... For some, it refers to all elements of visual style—that is, both elements on the set and aspects of the camera. For others, such as U.S. film critic Andrew Sarris, it takes on mystical meanings related to the emotional tone of a film."-Wikipedia.

In short, Mise-en-scene, as described by my professor, means the look and feel of the film. Within the look and feel, there are visual elements that can point to the feelings and events of the film. The visuals tell a story. I like to call it film feng shui. The arrangement of everything visual can create a certain feel or energy. The look and feel can reflect who a character is.

For example, a director may reflect a character's chaotic emotions by designing a scene in a house where everything is messy and out of place. In a hypothetical scene, let's say that a man is hiding something from his wife--the director always shows the man in the shadows when he's on camera. When the man comes clean with his wife, the truth is reflected in the mise-en-scene because he is well-lit and surrounded in light.

Mise-en-scene can also be used to foreshadow events. The Shining is one of my favorite examples of this, in the scene (watch if you dare) where Halloran talks to Danny about his psychic abilities. Halloran starts to prod Danny about what he sees in the future of the Overlook Hotel. The scene is erie, and it's obvious that whatever is coming won't be pretty. When Danny asks "Halloran, are you scared of this place?" the knives appear above his head--notice the knives above Danny's head in the picture below. They foreshadow the horror that is to come, and one of those knives will be used later in the story.

And this is how mise-en-scene happens in my life...

For the Love of Graffiti

So I have something that I haven't mentioned on my blog before. I LOVE Graffiti. It's one of my favorite art forms. I look for it everywhere in the world. I think I'm attracted to it because it's the art of the people--it's something that typically isn't trying to win prestige or money. It makes political, social, conscious and spiritual statements. I think a part of my passion for it comes from the fact that I spent a chunk of my childhood in New York, where graffiti is wonderfully rampant. I remember seeing it as a small child--especially on the side of the tracks, factories, and broken down train cars when I would ride on the Long Island Railroad.

Right now I'm on a work trip to LA and it's one of my favorite places for street art. I recently took some great shots here:

Monday, October 31, 2011


My friend Stahsha and I were on the beach last night when nature showed her heart to us. She gifted a fiery sunset and sandpipers that danced with the subtle lapping waves:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

To Freak or Not to Freak, That is the Question.

Fear based cultures make me giggle, and on a recent flight I was reminded of the fear culture that I live in. Sometimes I forget.

The flight was happy and smooth. Time whizzed by as I read my new book.  Cotton ball clouds dotted the cerulean sky out the window.  

Landing was about 45 minutes out and the loud blaring, pinched nose tone of the captain cut the crisp stale air of the cabin. He said in an urgent voice, "We're going to hit medium to high turbulence in about five minutes. Please prepare!"

The collective pulse and breath of the air passengers quickened. The tension built around me--I could see stress on people's faces--yet I chose another path. I chose calm. I told myself that we would have a smooth flight, and that I would not allow my fear mind to prepare myself for turbulence that was not guaranteed to happen. 

Twenty minutes passed and nothing happened. Forty minutes passed, and still, nothing happened. We landed on the runway without experiencing any turbulence. The smooth flight that I prepared for played out. :-)

This is a microcosmic example of a collective bracing for the worst. But why bother, unless the worst happens? Yeah, it's good to buckle up, on an airplane, or in life. Yes, I tie my shoes so I don't trip when I walk down the street. But please everyone, don't freak out! What do we really need to fear?

(disclaimer-yes, I've been afraid of flying in the past, and a moment like this could have freaked me out too. Somehow, I've been able to get over it. I guess you could say it was a choice :-) 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"I Am Not Moving"

This is a well done video short on what's happening with Occupy Wall Street and the overall picture of the world and the current state of global politics and injustice. It definitely brought a tear to my eye.

It makes me think of a conversation that I had with a stranger in a coffee shop recently. The stranger told me that he hates the government and the police and that he wants to leave the country because of them. He said he's a Republican.

I said how I'm inspired to see what's happening with Occupy Wall Street, and he said that they shouldn't be out there protesting and that they deserve to be beaten up and maced by the police. Are you as confused as me? Peaceful protest is our right as Americans, and how could this person--after stating his distaste for the government and police--say that people deserve to be beaten for sharing their voice. I find humans to be so confusing sometimes.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

End Chapter.

From my time in Timor-Leste

I just finished the initial edits on my homeless women veterans documentary. I'm relieved it's almost done, and I need a break so I can mentally recharge.

It's interesting. I keeping interviewing people who have survived different forms of trauma, over and over again, without even trying. I'm magnetized to this work.

Over the past 10 years I've interviewed and worked alongside...

War survivors in Afghanistan
Afghan and Tibetan Refugees
Genocide survivors in Cambodia
Genocide survivors in Timor-Leste
Homeless people on Skid Row
Homeless US veterans
Rape victims
Homeless Children in Cambodia

I love my work, and I've learned so much from it. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. It's humbled me and made me more appreciative of what I have. I'm curious to see where all of this work and all of these lessons learned will lead me to next. To be continued...

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Editing Has Begun...

I'm now editing my documentary on homeless women veterans. It's tough, sad & inspiring. The hard part about editing these stories is that a part of me lives the sadness & emotions every time I hear it. In editing, I have to listen to stories over and over again; these stories are all about rape, abuse and homelessness. The one thing that I've learned from this is that I'll never join the military. Well, ok... I've already known that much for quite some time, but these women's stories reinforce my feelings. Every woman I interviewed for this documentary was raped by male colleagues while serving in the US Military. I'm starting to wonder if there are any women who haven't been raped while serving. I'm sure they're out there, but I haven't met any of them yet.

I met some women veterans when I worked in the peace movement back in 06' & 07', and my experience was the same; every woman I met experienced rape in the military.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

From Balloon Fest, With Love!

I'm almost done with my work in New Mexico. Today is my last interview for my documentary. Luckily, the Albuquerque Balloon Festival started this morning and I got to check it out. This is one of the many things on my lifelong to-do list. Check! Done.

Oh, and while I'm at it...

I also got to visit Abiquiu, New Mexico where Georgia O'Keeffe once lived. I visited what she called The White Place, one of her favorite places to paint.

Here's my picture:

Here's Georgia's painting:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Petrified Forest National Park

This is footage that I shot today at the Petrified Forest National Park. Thanks to my wonderful husband for the camera.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Walk In Their Shoes

With the help of some awesome peace activists & volunteers, I designed and did the sleepless dirty work to make this art installation happen back in 2007 on the Washington National Mall. Each pair of shoes represented an Iraqi who died in the war. Each shoe had a name tag with the name of an Iraqi, how he or she died, and his or her age. I only had one month to do this, from start to finish. I also had a zero dollar budget to gather the shoes with. I used Internet social networking to get people from all around the USA to send their old dirty shoes to Washington DC.  It worked, and by the time I got to DC ( I organized this from LA) there were about 10,000 smelly used shoes waiting for me! It was like Christmas! Again, I only had a month to do this! The display got picture of the week in the New York Times. It made it to the Washington Post and even made it into a major newspaper in India. I never posted it on my blog, and lately people have asked me about it. So here it is. This is the picture of the final product.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Southwest, Summer 2011

From my stop at Mesa Verde National Park

Ok, so here I am in New Mexico. Last week I drove from Portland, Oregon where it felt like the beginning of fall. I stormed the length of Oregon, Idaho, Utah north to south, the southeastern edge of Colorado, and finally 100 degree+ New Mexico--five states and two seasons over the course of two days. Phew, I'm tired just from typing such a list. I wonder if I'd make a good trucker. Hmmm...

I'm here in New Mexico producing a documentary about homeless women veterans. It's an intense subject, but this is the work I'm most passionate about. Today I conducted my first interview, and the physical sensation of the buzz and warmth of my open heart helped me to remember something after it was done; I'm most alive when I'm helping people who have experienced trauma to share their stories. It's when I really feel that I'm fulfilling my life's work. 

Voicing stories is the beginning of healing, and I've facilitated this type of healing for nearly a decade. I just haven't realized how it's been the majority of my work until now. I have helped victims of war--especially women--to voice their stories around the world: from Cambodia, Afghanistan, Nepal, East Timor and even here in my own country. 

I don't know where all this work is leading, but I now fully own the identity of Story Healer. Yep, that's what I am.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mohammed Was a Feminist

I'm still quiet and emerging into something new. I do want to share this. I read it at my friend's house:

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Few Words

Hello! I'm flooded with amazing work right now, so my usual blogging has been put to the back burner. I do want to keep my flow, and a picture tells a story too.

This is a photo that I took in Timor Leste (formerly known as East Timor) back in 2007. Yes, it's a praying mantis, framed with an ocean backdrop.

I wonder how this image speaks to me right now. Praying is important to me, so maybe that's why I find it to be special.

These are more pictures from my time in Timor Leste:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Say NO!!! to the Clutter.

‎I rarely post quotes to my blog, but this one is worth it. Please note, I am in full support of following worldly issues through the media, however, I know there is a line that can be crossed. We cannot let the negativity collectively take us down. We are lights in the darkness. Continue to burn strong.

"I refuse to clutter my mind with most media turbulence. The media is good at stirring up our emotions and selling fear. If you read a newspaper from cover to cover every day, you’ll live in fear. They want you to buy a new paper each day to find out what to be afraid of that day. It’s the same with the television news. If you want to sleep poorly, watch the late-night news just before you go to sleep." Louise Hay

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Revealing Wrists...

I will never forget joking with my western friends in Afghanistan about showing skin when I lived there. And I'm not talking about anything Americans consider to be risque. I'm talking about showing my wrists :-) I never showed my arms in public--they were always covered in long-sleeve shirts. I was a guest in Afghanistan and my fashion choices came from my respect for the Afghan culture. To be honest, I never felt like my freedom or empowerment was compromised because of my conservative wardrobe. My western female friends sported the same respectful attire.

One day my western male friend saw me lift my sleeve to check my watch. In a joking tone he said, "No Liz, I can't take it. Put it away. Not until we're married." Maybe it's just funnier to me since I was there, but he always gave me a rise with that one. At the same time, I'm sure there may have been some guys in Afghanistan who were excited by the sight of a wrist. Actually, I'm working on a film right now called Scarlet Poppy, about an American man who falls in love with an Afghan woman because he sees her toenails sticking out from her burqa. The idea of being attracted to something so subtle may not be so far-fetched.

While living in Afghanistan, I noticed that some guys get weird when most of the women are covered up on the streets. That's a whole other blog entry, but I'll put it this way... I was single the whole time I was in Afghanistan, and with good reason.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Meaning of Life, or Not

Last month I asked my Twitter followers what I should blog about. Bridget Pilloud (@intuitivebridge on Twitter) responded with "the meaning of life", so here it goes.

My kneejerk response is to live from love. Then, when I meditate on it, I really believe that individuals make their own meaning, and no meaning is wrong.

The strongest thought I had when Bridget suggested this is, "Huh, I really don't sit and wonder about the meaning of life anymore". I pondered it deeply, up until I was 21 when I sat with my first spiritual teacher in Nepal. And by the way, I measure my life in two different time frames: before Kali Baba (BKB) and after Kali Baba (AKB). The first time period didn't feel spiritual, and now this second period does.

When I didn't feel like I was on a spiritual path, I wanted to know the meaning of life. Now that I recognize my spiritual journey, I have no questions about the meaning of life. Is it because spirit is so fulfilling? Probably, and I also don't have a desire "to know" anymore. The more I think I know, the more limited my reality feels. I just want to experience life moment to moment, allowing the meaning to change when my path calls for it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Monkey Bar Religion

When did you first realize that judging people based on their religion is silly and pointless? I honestly remember that moment much more than my first kiss.

I've been passionate about breaking down religious barriers all my life, and today I wondered "Why am I like this? Was I born this way?" 

I dug deep into the files, and I remembered my first realization of this was on the playground. I was in second grade, playing on the monkey bars with my pigtailed cohorts. One of the girls asked the group, "What kind of Christian are you?" I didn't get it. I thought, "Christians are divided?!? How is that possible?" So I asked her what she meant. She said, "Well, we go to Congregational Church and we're the best kind of Christian. That's what mom says". I was almost afraid to say it, but I piped up, "My family is Catholic. How are you guys better? Don't we all believe in Jesus?" All the girls gave me a blank stare and went back to doing kamikaze back flips on the bars while simultaneously trying to blow the world's biggest chewing gum bubbles. Those were the days... No wonder I'm always going to the chiropractor.

It's crazy how kids pick this up at such an early age, and you know they get it from home.  And here I am now, still scratching my head at why people fight over religion, when we're all just worshiping the same God by a different name. Some days, I just don't know.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Happy January

It's the last day of January, and it's my first blog entry of the month :-) It has been another busy month with lots of abundance. On the first day of January, I was celebrating the New Year in Greenwich Village, NY. I finished edits on a documentary about Iraq's Constitution, and then I flew to Oregon where I hung out for a week, packed my bags, got rained on, and then hit the road for sunny California.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Afghanistan: A Grounded Perspective

Everything about my experience in Afghanistan has been instrumental to my personal, spiritual and professional growth. Afghanistan’s chaos, disparity and catastrophe is upsetting to me and I won’t feel satisfied until its people are able to live in peace. I’ve been pondering the situation, and continue to educate myself on what’s happening in the area by following many different media sources, studying Afghanistan’s history and by talking with friends who work there in humanitarian aid and development. When looking for a valid firsthand experience, out of my entire network I think of Peter because he has a clear, empirical perpective on a very confusing and messy situation. I met Peter when I worked for the Parliamentary Election in 2005. He worked in the electoral office of public outreach and was in charge of the film and television campaign for civic education. Upon meeting Peter, his humble sensibility, down to earth perspective, and passion to understand the Afghan people impressed me immediately.

Peter has worked in Afghanistan off and on since his first visit in 2001. What I find most intriguing is that most of his work there has been developing communication strategies for organizations like the UN, USAID, and the Afghan and Pakistani government, in order to reach citizens in both countries, and even to specifically reach the Taliban. Not only is he a friend, but because of his concern for the planet and experience in our shared field of development, he is also a mentor. The following interview took place on the 26th of January 2009.