August 24, 2014 in Inspiring Reposts
Zach is inspired by this video of one man who is making a difference in a unique way.
Often we see the problems that overwhelm us in the world. Huge, massive, systemic problems. Our hearts break, tears run, and then … well, we walk away.
It’s too much. Too big. What can one person do about it?
Truth is, one person can’t do much about those problems. One person probably cannot end the violence between Palestine and Israel, or bring peace to Iraq, or maybe even heal the community of Ferguson, MO.
However, one person has incredible power to change and inspire their community. Little small acts of uplift send ripples all around. Small tiny acts make huge differences in individual lives. It is this we are called to do everyday.
This video is a shining example of a very small act that can inspire many. I have been forever inspired after coming across this video today. May you feel it’s power.
August 21, 2014 in Travel
Zach’s annual roadtrips invariably lead to the mountains that inspire him deeply. What is it about the mountains? #travelthursday #roadtrip #mountains
The sky was so blue. A blue unlike any blue in the Ohio skies I had been raised under – a blue like something from a movie. A blue so crisp that if I raised my hand, I almost expected it to come back with blue residues. And vaulting up into this endless sky, huge rocky peaks stretched up impossibly high, crowned in icy white. Though these are some of the youngest mountains in the country, they stand with a sense of utter timelessness. In fact, even as a young boy, I felt the deep age and wisdom, even if I didn’t understand it as such. The breeze through the trees and the distant rumble of waterfalls mixed with the symphony of birdsong, and like a gorgeous foreign language, comforted me with glorious tales of ancient times, forgotten lakes and creatures, clouds that resembled dragons and then drifted off into cotton balls. Water so clear all the rocks at the bottom of the glacial lake were clearly visible. Small reddish fish and tadpoles inspected the rocks and dashed out of view.
My first memories of mountains.
Standing in those forests, something in my heart felt home, felt alive. I cried the whole flight back home.
These Wyoming mountains have been calling me ever since. Nowhere else evokes in me such a feeling – not the white sands of New Mexico, the Florida everglades, the sweet Smokeys, the quaint finger lakes of New York, the ocean paradise of San Diego, nor the verdant lush forests of Portland. No, only these Teton mountains overtake me with spiritual intensity.
Many thinkers and healers throughout history have spent time in the mountains. Crazy Horse and Black Elk would journey up into the secluded sections of the Black Hills to commune with ancestors and tap into spiritual visions. Jesus, Buddha,
Muhammad, and many Hindu Swamis all spent valuable time in mountains.
In 2006, my father passed away from a tough battle with pancreatic cancer. As part of my healing in this process I ventured back into the wilderness, a tradition I’ve continued every year since.
That first month in the Tetons changed my life, as cliché as that sounds. Each day was spent exploring the mountains, climbing up to high glacial lakes, crossing miles of sage fields, shredding a pair of hiking shoes simply from 100 some miles of hikes. Most nights were spent singing in homes and local venues. Fields were abloom with wildflowers of all colors – deep red Indian paintbrush, soft violet lupine, explosions of yellow arrowleaf, cloudy blue columbine, shy pink geraniums – infinite shades of green and variety of leaves. My first big hike took me up to the peak of the 10,000 plus foot Jackson Peak, where from the top, 4 mountain ranges were visible.
Yet, the most powerful moments came from the natives – bears. In my short stay, I came into the presence of 42 bears, both black and grizzly. Bears are such powerful and wise creatures. The first few were spotted from the car, and were hanging out on the other edge of the meadow. One hike was begun late in the evening, bringing us out in dusk, a time of crepuscular activity. As we rounded a bend, a young cinnamon black bear sat on the trail, delighting in some trail-side berries. He was so close, had I been not paying attention, I would have bumped into him. Our eyes met briefly, a matter of a second, before I stopped, backing around the bend, shifting off the trail and bursting into song. The bear sauntered off and disappeared into the brush. This experience with the little bear was so invigorating, and inspiring, a communion with something divine. Bears are a symbol of wisdom, something the greater Universe is seeking to impart upon us. All the encounters after this one on the trail brought the bears close to me. If I would see one in the far corner of a meadow, it would soon make its way towards me, and if we were on the road, it would cross the street in front or behind me. A mother grizzly even felt so comfortable and not threatened that she sat down and nursed her three cubs right there near where I was parked.
Nothing can compare to standing in a coniferous forest, aspen trees shaking in the breeze somewhere on the hillside, the smell of freshness so rich that you can feel the oxygen molecules entering every cell in your body.
And so now, like John Muir, I can truly appreciate the power of the mountainous wilderness. And even now, sitting in an Ohio suburb, I can still hear the songs of the magpies and bugling of the elk, the snorting of the bison.
The fragrant cottonwoods are almost just outside my window.
But now, “the mountains are calling, and I must go.”
Thoughts on Enlightenment by #globalite Zach #sundayoneday
A friend asked me what enlightenment meant to me. That’s a pretty big question. All sorts of things initially ran through my mind: the waking up in Buddhism; freedom from the mind; a true understanding of our nature; freedom from desire and sadness.
These definitions are certainly all part of enlightenment. The more I thought on this though, the more it seemed as if there was something more basic underlying all these ideas.
Living from a place of Love.
The word “Love” has become an anemic word in our society, something with little practical worth, especially when used in the broader Agape sense. The ancient Greeks spoke of three kinds of love: Eros, which is romantic love; Philia, a brotherly love or friendship; and Agape, the pure big and broad sense of love of all creation. This is the sense in which Dr. King spoke of Love–Love for all. No strings attached. Love simply because.
That sounds pretty strong to me.
And it is. That is precisely why the powers that be try to deface this word. An idea this strong can thoroughly change the world many times over. An idea this big does not need money or friends or business to keep it alive. It just is.
When we realize that power inherent in Love, we are called to begin living from that place. Each of our choices come from compassion and consideration. Each life has a unique and powerful irreplaceable purpose.
Enlightenment isn’t that unattainable goal. It isn’t some state relegated only to the yogis meditating for decades in the distant mountaintops.
We’re all granted access to this space, if we want it. Not that living from Love is easy. In fact, it’s far harder than living our lives in our current ignorance. Love is demanding. It calls us to act with the same compassion toward any and every living being and our planet itself that we would give to ourselves. I believe it actually calls us to act even better towards others than we do to ourselves. And many of us don’t treat ourselves very well, either.
Let us not be afraid to Love. Let us not be afraid to know that we can act in a completely different manner. Let us not be afraid to change ourselves. Let us not be afraid to give ourselves to those that need us.
That is what we are here for.
We’re already there.
Open your heart.
Kindness in Action
I’m not anti-suffering. I’m not anti-violence. I’m not anti-meat.
I stand for something, not against it. I stand for Love. I stand for peace. I stand for justice. I stand for hope and kindness. Love, peace, justice, kindness – these things are larger than anything I could fight against.
I don’t see veganism as a protest. Veganism is a revolution, a philosophy, a chance to create kindness in the world and within ourselves.
And to me, veganism is spiritual, a chance to reach for our highest callings. As spiritual beings having a human experience, we must be called to bring that luminous, loving essence into our similar existence. A thought is of limited power until our hands get involved.
Sure, all people fall short of perfection, but if we don’t aim for the highest, we will never reach any higher rungs.
It’s important to stand for – not against – something. Many have fought against a system, or a corporation, or a policy, or a government. But those who succeed do so because they are standing for their vision of a better place.
Campaigns should not be thought of as fighting against a specific company, or slaughterhouses, or Big Macs. As vegans, our campaigns are about realizing our true potential, about creating a world where people care about all beings and our environment. We need to show Love in all our adventures, interactions, and campaigns.
People want to believe in something. People buy into visions, so what vision are we creating and selling?
Let’s talk of our hopes of communities growing food together, communities supporting each other, communities helping people achieve each others’ dreams. Talk of communities doing unto others as they’d have done to them, and communities not doing unto others as they’d not have done unto them. Talk of communities modeling kindness in action.
We are Lovers. We never have to fight against something, if we fight for Love. I’ve been discouraged fighting against wars. I’ve been hurt fighting against old energy policies. But we cannot be broken fighting for Love. Patience can run out, but kindness is all abundant. We create and receive more each moment.
When I’m asked, “What is vegan?” I say this:
Vegan is seeking a better world. It is an action word – a verb. It is creating Love. It is kindness in action.
As a regularly touring vegan musician, I get to see a lot of different places all over the country. Since April, I have put over 10,000 miles on my truck – everything from big cities like LA to small towns and mountain wilderness.
I’ve been a touring musician for nearly 15 years, and have been vegan for over 8 of those years.
One thing I am frequently asked is how do I find vegan food in my travels. It must be pretty difficult, right?
Veganism has come a long way since my first vegan tours in the Southeast. In those days, most restaurants had little specifically vegan options. Many places has little concept of what vegan even was.
But things have changed. Awareness of health and lifestyle has greatly blossomed. There is a health food store in Cody, WY. Restaurant chains are boldly advertising new vegan options. In the heart of a cheese market in Amish country, Ohio, several new vegan items have been showing up on the menu.
In fact, it’s pretty easy to eat well and compassionately in any travels across the US. Sites like Happycow.com, and the rising demand for organic, gluten free, and vegan options have been making restaurants and grocery stores take notice. Farmer’s markets have also been on the rise.
A good idea for travelers is to make your own food when you can. Stop at grocery stores and farmers markets. Getting fresh fruits and veggies that are local to your area means delicious food for you and a great way to support local farmers. It’s always good to have food on hand as you travel. It’s cheaper. It guarantees good food whenever you want it.
There are lots of wonderful vegan and vegan-friendly places all over the country. An easy Google search can take you right to a tasty meal, and new friends.
Have no fear if you’re venturing around the country, you will have no problem eating healthy and finding beautiful, compassionate adventures.
July 14, 2014 in Mindfulness
“Real enlightenment is not an experience. Real enlightenment is the ongoing work you do to keep from getting caught up in your experiences.” ~ Brad Warner
I voraciously read books on peace, peace-building, spiritual growth, spirituality, and God. There is much wisdom in these books, many insights and experiences which have guided me and have been applied to my life.
One thing they don’t tell you is that the more you move towards a peaceful lifestyle, the more you must challenge yourself, and the more you will be challenged. The key, it seems is to realign our attitudes of such challenges, so that they become lessons, opportunities, and less about setbacks.
Before last summer, I felt that I really “knew” a few things about spirituality, the path to enlightenment and God. And then that summer came and brought me to question all my beliefs. It forced me to live through darkness and loneliness, as I had never previously experienced. From these low places, I began to see how low my self-image really was, and how high my self-judgment was.
It really is true, the path to peace is a practice. And indeed, there is no path to peace – peace IS the path.
We must day in and day out work to grow and expand our compassion and kindness. The imperative of the process is to examine and question the beliefs we hold. I would dare to say that the deeper the conviction, the more we should be examining it. There are deep truths we can live by. And none of them are rigid. Any belief that does not call us passionately to bring out more of our kindness toward all life has become calcified and is no longer serving us.
Love is flexible. Love bends and shades with infinite colors. Love reminds us we have no idea of the amount of beauty in the universe, in ourselves. Love reminds us we are children. Love reminds us that enlightenment demands we lighten up. Love reminds us that our work does not end. Love reminds us that every day we are finding our way, the best we can with what we know in that moment. Love reminds us that we have no idea where we are in that path, and where we are even heading.
Love reminds us that the daily practice of veganism is a great inner work. It is as Rumi reminds us, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”